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On The Road With Customer Centricity

I had the pleasure this week of presenting at two of our global Customer Centricity events in Europe – one in London and the other in Brussels.  Attendance was strong in both locations (we even had to bring in extra chairs in London where drop-out rates are notoriously high).  In London I presented with Andy Hayler (the CEO of analyst firm “the Information Difference”) and our partner Capgemini.  In Brussels I was with RealDolmen – an Informatica authorised distributor for Belgium.

I really enjoyed all of their presentations and remember hearing a few wonderful quotes:

  • In most companies perception of data is far removed from the reality – reality is always worse
  • MDM is not a destination, it is a journey
  • IT should not lead an MDM project
  • Make sure you have a good business sponsor
  • Don’t run out of money half-way through
  • Don’t try to solve everything at once

I met with a whole range of customers, prospects and partners.  The majority (70+%) of the audiences were IT, which I found interesting.  However, one thing was consistent in all the conversations that I had – everyone was trying to work out how to start treating their customers as “customers” and as “real human beings” as opposed to opt-ins, names in a database or website clicks.  I think this is a lesson from the world of social media – reputations can be made or broken through how we deal with our customers.  Quite simply it is too easy for a person to change their provider of … anything, and this is a massive threat to all enterprises.  The mantra of the next decade is to differentiate through service and maximize revenues through a holistic understanding of our customers.

The trouble is that we all live in the nightmare by-product of the 1990’s application-era! Our applications have been built to de-humanize the relationship with a customer by treating them as “an account”, or “a telephone number”, or “a social security number”.  Where has IT gone wrong in abstracting us to numbers – it all sounds like George Orwell meets the Matrix!  A consistent comment made by many people I met was that they have to start looking from the outside in and this means understanding how THEY would like to be treated – and this is where Customer Centricity has to be the call to action.

This feeling of “needing a new way” (if I may call it that) was articulated by almost everyone I spoke to including, for example,  financial institutions who are absolutely aware that they are drowning in inefficiencies caused by having to spend far too much time collating data for a “customer” from different systems that have evolved over time, or have been built as a result of new product offerings, or have come into the enterprise through a merger or an acquisition.  It was also articulated by people from the Telco industry who commented to me that their industry was (and I quote) “plagued by a need to call a person by their telephone number”!

Companies of all sizes were present.  The customer domain was of most interest (probably due to the fact that our seminar was focused on “Customer Centricity”!).   I also spoke to a number of people who have been battling for literally THREE years in building either home grown or competitive solutions.  I find it stunning – simply stunning – to think in this day and age that a project can be running for such a long time and deliver zero value.

As a marketer I believe that the world is indeed changing.  Enterprises can no longer be the inhuman taker of orders.  Social media allows us to build a brand through a community of customer advocates one tweet or post at a time, and can also destroy brands the same way.  Enterprises who differentiate themselves will be the winners in the next decade and “Customer Centricity” must be the call to action for all.  After all, we all respond better when people talk to us as human beings and know who we are, what we have done and what we like.

We are still running these events across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.  If you’d like to join us and find out how you can use data to become customer-centric, then please check our website for dates and locations of the Customer Data Forum near you.  If you can’t join us, please take a look at our Customer Centricity website where you’ll find some helpful resources about how to get started on becoming more customer-centric.  I’ll be in New York on June 8th and Boston on June 9th – I look forward to meeting you there!

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