The “Customer? What Customer Syndrome?” Part II

Jim Blasingame

Last week you were introduced to a dangerous trend in the marketplace, which I’ve named the “Customer? What Customer? Syndrome,” or CWCS. This condition is found in companies that are more concerned with competitors than with customers.

You learned that Level One CWCS infects employees who have received little or no training about the direct link between customers and their employer’s success and, therefore, their paychecks. Level One is dangerous but not hopeless because those so afflicted can be cured with better hiring and training. 

Now let’s talk about Level Two CWCS, which only afflicts managers. Level Two is more troubling and organizationally more devastating because it occurs at the top, where strategic decisions are made.  

The incidence of Level Two CWCS is not associated with company size or structure; it afflicts owners of small businesses as well as managers of multinational conglomerates. 

Like Level One, the cause of Level Two is simple, but it is different. It’s caused by a change in proximity. 

As a business grows, it’s a natural law that executives become more involved in the macro operating issues, which almost by definition puts them in closer proximity to competitors than customers. When competitors become more top-of-mind and customers are more out-of-sight-out-of-mind, Level Two CWCS occurs, and it looks like this: 

  • Executives see their job as a game. 
  • There’s more focus on manipulating customers away from competitors than on fast-evolving customer expectations and creating a unique customer experience, including training employees on how to deliver that experience. 
  • They focus on increasing market share by beating competitors, instead of creating customer loyalty best practices by adding value to their experience. 
  • A company infected with CWCS uses its size or market presence to try to intimidate customers to do business with them instead of developing strategies that create the long-term benefit of having customers you can’t run off. 

It’s possible for an entire industry to contract CWCS. It happens when competitors obsess about each other so much that, in time, it becomes difficult to tell them apart. A survey was once conducted where customers leaving the three major office supply companies were asked if they could say which store they’d just been in. Most couldn’t. Such a scenario is fertile soil for entrepreneurs with the following treatment.

How do you inoculate for CWCS? With the “There’s My Customer!” vaccine, or TMC. Here’s the TMC vaccine formula: Spend more time asking what customers want than what competitors are doing. Then develop and execute a business model that focuses on delivering what customers tell you. The TMC success rate is high, and the ROI is enormous.

Now cured of CWCS, you’ll contract the healthy condition of repeat business from loyal customers you can’t run off. 

Write this on a rock … CWCS in a big business is inefficient and ugly; in a small business, it’s terminal.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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