In our latest Executive Programs IT Survey of CIOs, the highest percentage of CIOs (54%) listed customer intimacy as their number one goal in technology and process projects. This was significantly higher than a focus on product excellence, and higher than an emphasis on operational excellence. But the last few months have put this high level sentiment to the test.
I have been away from my blog for several weeks now. Like many of you, I’ve been logging 60 hour weeks. Yet, in the business equivalent of universal expansion, the gap between the effort I put into my job (with the goal of helping clients grow their business) and the evidence I see of client success seems to widen rather than shrink. By the time evening comes and there is time to consider a fitting topic for a blog dedicated to CRM and customer experience, lately I end up with thoughts that are more ontological and axiological than they are about customer processes and technology. Ontological because the very foundations of the software and services business are being tested. The corporate focus on customer experience and responsiveness is in jeopardy. The swiftly unfolding, and seemingly accelerating, downturn will be the litmus test of your commitment to the customer.
Here is good advice: stop just about any initiative that lacks a tie to revenue and cost cutting. But what about CRM projects? Well, they should have been approved based on some notion of creating revenue or lowering cost to begin with. Last I looked, customers were your sole source of revenue. Unless you were cooking the books. Which brings me to the axiological – values and value judgements. Yes, clients know we will trim workforces, impose wage freezes, and delay discretionary spending. Consider, however, an additional dimension: making the wrong cuts, or cuts that are viewed as unjust by employees and customers. Such gaffes will result in lowered morale and higher customer defection. It could take you years to recover, and all for the short term tactic of trimming costs.
So: forge ahead, knowing that your actions will be scrutinized for the values they reflect. Your staff is watching, and so are your customers.
Thank you to the many business leaders who have shared their responses to the economic crisis. Most of you are going ahead with your customer-centric initiatives. I would love to hear from more of you on how your plans and actions are changing.
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