Companies in western economies find it hugely difficult to truly engage customers. The phrase 'Customer Experience' has been a key theme for years and yet still it's rare to find companies who are able to deliver a brilliant experience - and sustain it.
There have been many articles written about the reasons why. I've read and agree with the logic in many of them. In truth the reasons why vary from organisation to organisation, with each having a different problem to address. But I believe one stands out above all the rest. It's short termism. We suffer from chronic short term thinking, particularly in western economies. It's deeply embedded in the very structure andf the way in which business is conducted. Life revolves around this week, this month, this quarter, in order to get the right results for this half year, this year. And in the current economic environment it's becoming even more prevalent - I've spoken to employees who are being more closely managed than ever - sometimes on a day to day basis.
Of course I understand the importance of sales right now. Profits depend on sales numbers. But it makes no sense to achieve short term sales and damage long term relationships with customers, and that's what many organisations are doing right now. There are so many examples - from the shop that attracts someone with a price reduction in a sales promotion, only for the customer to discover later that the pre-sale reference price was almost twelve months ago. Or a financial institution who attracts someone with a leading rate now, but causes distrust when the customer realises it's been reduced six months later. Or the company that attracts new customers through special offers, but damages the relationship with with existing customers because the small print says it's a new customer offer only. Expedient in the short term, bad move in the long term.
It's time for longer term, more strategic thinking. It's the right time to build businesses based on deep engagement with customers - by thinking longer term about how every action taken by every person in the business aligns with the experience customers want. Oh, and it also requires courage to reduce the focus on the short term and stop managing by numbers. But it's also counter-intuitive - focusing on what you want your company to known for rather than what you do will result in higher and sustainable sales into the future.
With this in mind, here's a new Customer Engagement Manifesto*. It's a credo, written from a customers perspective, to influence the way your company is, and as a result everything it does. The Accord Customer Engagement Manifesto...
* The first Manifesto of this sort that I came across was the Holstee Manifesto. See it at http://shop.holstee.com or type Holstee Manifesto into Youtube.