Evolving your customer strategy to meet changing needs: part one


By Jennifer Kirkby, consulting editor

In 1859 Charles Darwin’s seminal work The Origin of Species changed accepted wisdom; firmly rooting in common culture the idea that survival is a matter of evolving to suit your environment. In 1994, Peppers & Rogers’ seminal work One to One changed accepted business wisdom; firmly rooting in management theory the idea that customer focus is the road to profitability. In 2008 we need to meld these two ideas to move CRM on - we need adaptive customer strategies.

Of course, neither Darwin nor Peppers and Rogers were the first to espouse their theories. Biological evolution and customer focus stretch back respectively to the Greeks and corner shops: both ideas had been written about by others in the years proceeding publication. It was the timing and ‘stickiness’ that made the works seminal – they caught the tide at its flood; when people were aware of the ideas and seeking answers to their own questions.

This is now the situation with customer relationship management. The ideas and practices have been picked over, tried and evolved for over ten years. It’s not just a question of ‘how to’ anymore but ‘how to’ for us. Some organisations have leapt ahead - John Lewis, Tesco and First Direct, for instance. Others, for reasons of acquisition or changing leadership, have moved backwards – the removal of its loyalty card was disastrous for Safeways, whilst M&S took its eye off its clear customer proposition and lost its way for a long time.

The vast majority of organisations are making patchy progress. However, the reality of cross-functional relationship management is hard and there still seems to be a lack of real direction and leadership. Creationism or intelligent design still insists that God put the world here as it is; and there are still managers who believe businesses should focus on shareholders returns and products designed in labs without a customer in sight. Others are caught in a land of chaos demanding both a better customer experience and lower costs.

It is perhaps time to dust down the leadership device of strategy, build it around customers and add a strong flavouring of adaptiveness to suit the modern market environment. Combine this with good programme management and you have the tools for success. I could and did write this years ago, what follows is an ‘updated’ take on an age old theme.

Part two, what is an adaptive customer strategy? click here.

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