Does Your Company Have an Ego Problem?

  |  November 13, 2003   |  Comments

When 'you' means 'me,' all the customer gets is lip service.

CRM and customer-centric design: They aren't just good design principles or ways to use technology to control and further your relationship with customers. They're a systematic approach to viewing your customers through their own eyes and to understanding your company's mission and goals in terms of customer benefits.

If your company has an ego problem, no matter how much money is spent on CRM and personalization, you're not a truly customer-centric organization.

Mission Statements

A company's mission statement says a lot about how it views itself in relation to its customers. Let's look at a few to see if we can get a sense of how the company treats its customers.

Online retailers:

  • Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

  • [Company] is a leading Internet-based retailer of books, music, DVD/video, and online courses.

Technology companies:

  • To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.

  • We empower people everywhere to lead more productive lives.

  • Do a great job for our customers, employees and stockholders by being the preeminent building block supplier to the worldwide Internet economy.

As the examples above illustrate, a mission statement says a lot about how a company interacts with its customers and how committed the company is to a customer-first adage. If a company really believes in customer-centric management, its mission statement should reflect it.

The first example follows that philosophy. The mission statement says the company wants to be the "earth's most customer centric company." It goes on to say what the company actually does ("a place where people can come to find... anything... to buy online.").

Compare that with its competitor. Its mission statement (though not identified on its Investor Relations page as such, it is the most-repeated sentence on the site and begins most strategically oriented paragraphs) says the company is "a leading Internet-based retailer of books, music..."

Both companies sell things. But Company A sounds like it sells a lot more stuff. It clearly always thinks first and foremost about the customer and the customer experience. It sounds like a customer-centric company from the top down. The other one doesn't. Two guesses as to which companies they are.

The second set of mission statements are from technology companies. All have both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses. The first company's vision is about enabling people to achieve something. This sounds very similar to the second company's mission statement (its "purpose"). The big difference? The first is the world's largest supplier of consumer software (Microsoft); the second, AMD, builds microchips. AMD's competitor, Intel, is responsible for the third mission statement, which basically says it's a great company, and its greatness -- hopefully --will trickle down to its shareholders and customers.

The AMD/Intel juxtaposition isn't accidental. Last year, I wrote about a great customer-centric launch AMD designed for its mobile processor. The launch, in stark contrast to Intel's launch of a similar product, clearly addressed customer needs. It explained to customers the new mobile processors could fill a gap in their lives. It explained this in language appropriate for the customer. Intel's launch focused on how great the company was and how great the new chip was, with no regard to who might use the chip or why.

Solely from the companies' mission statements, it's clear why it was no accident AMD was behind the user-centric launch that merited a best-practices column. It's no surprise, based only on the mission statement, Intel's launch was the opposite, in praise of itself without regard to its customers.

Where Does Customer-Centric Design Start?

A customer-centric Web site doesn't start with product managers, creative directors, or copy editors. It starts with a company culture that emphasizes customers and defines its core values by how it helps its customers do what they need to do. This is as true for B2B companies as it is for B2C. If a company doesn't view itself through its customers' eyes, from its mission statement on down, it isn't a truly customer-centric organization.

Take another look at your company's mission statement. Does it reflect your corporate culture? Does it reflect the way you treat your customers? Does your company claim to be customer-centric, while it's really suffering from an ego problem? It may to time to call the board together for a meeting.

Until next time...


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Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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