Customer focused strategies, the missing element

Glenn Ross asked a question a couple of days ago to fellow bloggers: how to define customer-focused strategy. Several replies followed with a similar answer: it is about listening to the customer, and delivering to their needs and demands. I agree, for the most part, but I would like to add one item to this discussion that I learned to emphasize while at Gartner.

The most interesting part of working as an analyst is the exposure to both theories and practical approaches to deploying solutions. We wrote and pushed our customers to adopt customer-centric (the old term) strategies for many, many years. Several times I felt I was talking to the wall – but once in a while a good example showed up. Now, without naming names (confidentiality clauses still apply), I can tell you the difference between a successful customer-focused deployment and one that did not do so well over time was a throwback to an older concept, that still applies today: make sure that each deployed solution is a win-win solution.

Countless solutions I saw deployed failed in the long term because, even though they delivered to what the customer said they wanted, they were too expensive to maintain, they did not reflect the corporate culture, or simply “got boring” (yes, those were actual words). The ones that succeeded were the ones that had been built and deployed not only considering what the customer wanted (a win for the customer), but also what the organization could deploy and maintain for a long time. In other words, if it made sense for the organization to do something – and there was a gain (either financial or other) that arose from it – it was a win for the organization. Alas, if the customer got what they wanted at the same time, then it was a customer-focused, win-win solution.

Quite simply: to deploy successful customer-focused solutions, you have to make sure that both the organization and the customer benefit equally, or at the very least that they both obtain a benefit or gain. Else, well – it will be one more of the customer-focused failures.

Agree?