10 years Customer Centric Management in Spain: still finding the path…

Written by Silvana Buljan for Buljan & Partners Consulting

When positioning Customer Centric Management in conferences, meetings with clients and even in discussions with subject matter experts from the industry, I come to the same conclusion as about 10 years ago: focus is on consolidating customer information (“I want to know”), across channels evolving with technology (from phone via Internet to social networks), and seeing in the customer a profitable cash-cow in the short term (“I want to sell better and more”). The only difference is the nomenclature: we don´t talk about CRM any more, but about customer centricity, customer experience, customer co-creation and, and, and.

The holistic view on customer management is still missing, because in the top rows of most organizations long term and profitable economic growth based on “doing the right things right” has disappeared from the agenda, and all initiatives related with customer management are considered as candidates for “automation”. Why don´t we learn from all the real cases that we have seen in the CRM industry since so many years? Demonstrating with business cases that technology without a business proposal, based on the company´s strategy and corporate values, has absolutely no value for excellent relations with customers, who in the long term are THE asset for improved business performance?

I personally feel disappointment that later converts into “anger” when I have to talk the same talk for years, and especially when coming across the following statistics on CRM in Spain:

The first CRM study done by the “Asociación española de Marketing Relacional – AeMR” indicates two key messages:

The first is that only 10% of surveyed companies say that they have a profound knowledge of CRM, the second is that most importance is given to turning the company´s orientation from product to customer.

If this is so, why are still most project decisions on CRM led by software vendors? Even if you google “CRM en España” the first you see are software vendors or IT consulting companies selling a technological solution. Definitely not the right partners to change a company´s culture towards customer centricity…

Looking at the fifth CRM study in Spain, published in 2009 by the “Asociación Española de Comercio Electrónico y Marketing Relacional – AECEM” results don´t differ too much.

As critical success factors to implement a CRM strategy the following criteria (appearance in order of importance) have been named:

-> customer oriented culture /mentality towards a serving culture
-> top management commitment
-> engagement of the entire organization – customer data quality (both on the same level of importance)
->  customer centric processes – highly qualified personnel.

Again, technological requirements are on the bottom of the list….

We all think the same, we all have the same great ideas, we all know “how to do it right”…, but then, what is the point of not doing well, and still experiencing a lack of customer centricity in most organizations (especially big ones)?

My personal interpretation of the situation is that the final objective seems to be too high in expectations, and therefore it is easier to assume an unsatisfactory situation and stick to “business as usual” instead of looking for excellence and change.

Because change is uncomfortable, it means that a CEO might be evaluated by his staff in terms of CRM Leadership, it also means customer feedback could cause impacts in HR and employee performance evaluation, it also means that product and service innovation is in the hands of the customer….

All these examples are standards for true customer centricity, meaning that opening a door and inviting guests also includes serving them drinks and dinner, possibly offering them to stay over and serve breakfast the next morning. As organizations we have to allow ourselves to be a beginner, because each customer worth loyalizing is different in expectations and needs, inviting us to do the journey together.

CRM in Spain has still a long path to go, and in times of economic crisis everybody remembers that customers to be served are out there, the problem is that this “remembering” is not driven by the wish to serve them right and to create a win-win for both sides, but unfortunately mainly to ensure that overhead expenses (fixed costs) are covered by customers paying for a product or service and that short-term commercial & financial goals are met, not considering the customer mid- and long-term potential for company growth, … short term profit increase is a must to justify CRM initiatives!

Customer Centricity needs a mid and long-term strategic approach and many companies are still showing a lack of consistent strategic planning, including CRM as a key element.

I will check now on Telepizza´s CRM strategy (their CRM manager praises their process and information driven CRM orientation), so far the processes work and now I will let myself delight by a good smelling cheese pizza, which finally will determine my experience and satisfaction as customer…

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