You don’t need to be Cesar Millan to know that dogs do not love their owners. Not really. But somehow hundreds of millions of people are fooled daily. There are just about 80 million dogs kept as pets in the US alone. When I lived in Germany it was harder to find a restaurant that would accept infants than it was to find one that seated dogs.
No, they don’t love you, they are just highly evolved and have figured out how to get what they want through every trick in the book. They are keenly observant. They pick up on subtle signals and changes in posture, shape and scent. They are not wasting time on Twitter or FaceBook, iPhone or Droid Apps. No. They are focused on food and comfort, and calculate the odds of securing these. If they could play poker they would always win against a human.
In that way business leaders can take a lesson from dogs: stay focused. You might think you care about the customer, the customer relationship, the voice of the customer. But what is really on our minds is the sound of money entering the coffers of shareholders. Everything is around that: profit. And the way to profit is by finding customers, taking as much of their money for as long as you can, and finding ever more customers to expand and grow.
I know this sounds odd coming from a person who has dedicated the past 17 years guiding and analyzing the creation of a CRM software and services market and advising businesses on best customer practices. But recently I have felt that we risk going too far in talking about advocacy and social this and that without taking the time to quantify and qualify the aims of these initivatives. We need to be razor-sharp in our focus on how customers are now and how they are evolving and how they will evolve in the future.
We also need to be a lot more honest and direct with clients. A customer with little money but lots of growth potential is different than a customer with little money and little growth potential. Is that so hard a reality and is it such a big secret in 2010? Most business customers get this, and most consumer customers understand it too. It is disingenuous to disguise the reason you wave a penalty fee for one client but not for another, or give one better credit terms and discounts.
So, I don’t want you telling anyone the truth about dogs – I’ve already been told the heroic stories of dogs altruistically risking their lives to save a baby, diving through flames and swimming across oceans. But about the customer relationship management strategies? Yes: stay focused. Even if you truly love your customers, don’t believe that all you need is love. We have to work incredibly hard to understand their evolving patterns of searching, collaborating, interconnecting, seeking advice, purchasing and consuming the experiences we help create. Customer-centricity will drive product and business innovations, and in the end, well, it’s dog eat dog: you also need to keep one step ahead of them as well to remain competitive.