“Business is human. Companies don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.”
– Reuven Gorsht, Global VP of Customer Strategy, SAP on SAP Radio
In some corners of business it’s simply a matter of rank and function as to who gets to talk to the customer. I once worked for a conservative financial services firm that was steadfast in its policy that no one would be allowed to visit a client before age 40. While surely there were high-minded reasons for this closely guarded approach to client contact, recent shifts in consumer attitudes however suggest now is the time to rethink customer engagement and to deepen contact with customers – at all levels of the organization. In a customer-centric business, employees positively need those firsthand insights into the behaviors, motivations, and preferences of their customers in order to better serve them.
On SAP Radio program Coffee Break with Game-Changers, a panel of experts took on the topic of “The Future of Make for Me – the Luxury of Customer Centricity.” To where once customers may have been happy with a few basic options to customize their order, today’s buzz is all about individuality. Customers increasingly demand a high-degree of customization along with personal recognition – and all at a low price.
Reuven Gorsht, Global VP of Customer Strategy, SAP, participated on the panel, along with leading innovation coach Whitney Johnson and Elizabeth Hedstrom Henlin, senior analyst at TBR. According to Gorsht, there are three principles that successful companies will practice in mastering customer engagement. “Principle number one is, know me. Second one is, understand me. The third one is, connect with me on a whole new level.”
Where does empathy fit on the org chart?
Business guru Peter Drucker suggested that “empathy” was the route to truly understanding and responding to people. Drucker even went so far as to call it the number one mantra for success in life and in business. For an organization to be customer-centric, this empathy for the customer must be ingrained at each level, in each function – whether customer facing or not.
So, do we now need a Chief Empathy Officer or Chief Customer Insight Officer? Before you hang out that “now hiring” sign, consider that the panelists were unanimous in their advice that all levels of the organization must contribute to achieving a customer-centric approach. “It’s really everyone’s job,” said Gorsht. “Leadership needs to model it, and get out there. But then, every individual no matter what role you’re in, you have to get out there. Spend the time.”
Therapy for an intractable case of customer phobia
Sometimes however the hardest thing to do is to face the customer. Not surprisingly, some people will resist, buckling to customer phobia (read Gorsht’s commentary on what customer phobia is really about). SAP Radio host Bonnie D. Graham humorously recounted the tale of an acquaintance who once worked as a consultant. “She said she got most of her housework done every couple of weeks – an amazing amount of housework done – when she was faced with either mopping the floors, doing the laundry, doing the windows, cleaning out the attic, or the basement…versus making that phone call to a customer or a cold call.”
Of course, rather than succumbing to the inertia of customer phobia, far better is to embrace the opportunity to engage with customers on both an interpersonal and business level based on regular contact and evolved understanding. “Whether if it’s a metric that you have to meet or not,” as Gorsht said, “get out there, spend time with customers, talk to real people. Make business human again.”
If you would like to hear more insights about the “Make for Me” economy, listen to the following recordings of SAP Radio: