IMC 2004 – Customer-centric is not just being Customer-focused

Customer-centric and 1-to-1 marketing are becoming the preferred descriptions for websites that are designed for today’s market place. Both terms were widely used in different sessions throughout the 3 days of IMC 2004. However as I tried to get that “helicopter vision” of what the phrase Customer-centric really means to this crowd, I see it isn’t what I mean.

Customer-centric is now often used to mean a rifle-shot approach to contact customers rather than the shotgun approach of traditional marketing. The phrase Customer-focused could work equally well for most marketers. However Customer-centric means something radically different from Customer-focused.

It’s a question of perspective. First you’ve got to realize that no two people ever see things the same. That’s true even if they’re sitting at the same side of the table. When you come to a seller and a buyer, they’re on completely opposite sides of the table. Customer-centric means trying to somehow put yourself “inside the skin” of the customer and see the situation from that perspective.

Adopting a customer-centric viewpoint is almost impossible for someone in a marketing department. They live within the company culture, and receive many communications of all types from the company to solidify their company-centric view. The potential customer has had all sorts of different impressions derived from competitors, news media, government agencies and yes, a few from the company.

Some of these impressions of the company may have been received in unexpected ways. Perhaps the customer tried to telephone the company and suffered the typical frustrations that so many companies create. Perhaps a neighbour had a bad experience with the company and is broadcasting this to everyone they know. Perhaps it’s something very much simpler. It’s now a Permission Marketing world and the customer expects to be in control. Those intrusive pop-ups on the company’s website may have a very negative impact on some customers.

For a marketing plan to be truly customer-centric, you really must try to get that perspective that a customer has. It may take an outsider to be able to play back to the company how a customer may really be seeing the company. That outside perspective on the company is the only true version of the customer-centric view of what the company is offering.