Friday, August 5, 2016

You Don't Own the Customer; She or He Owns You

"Who owns the customer?"

This is a question I have heard from a wide variety of organizations. Insurance firms wonder if the agent or the company "owns" the customer. B2B firms struggle with sales and account teams that seek to "protect" their clients. CPG brands wish to have more direct customer relations while retailers work to control the customer relationship. And companies with many competing or complementary products and services strive to balance the contradictory needs of different brands and departments.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin once said, "There are no right answers to wrong questions." "Who owns the customer?" is the wrong question. The terrible connotation of asking who owns a human being should be the first hint we're on thin ice. Moreover, it should be easily apparent to everyone that brands don't own or control anything; it is the customer who chooses us, pays for us, and abandons us if we fail to provide the right value or experience vis-a-vis the competition. If you consider this question from the perspective of the customer and not the organization, there is no question that you don't own the customer; he or she owns you.

Thus, the right question is not "Who owns the customer?" but "How best can we serve the customer?" This servitude approach is not simply philosophical but can have a profound effect on the actions of your firm and your employees. To see how important it is to start with the right question and learn the ways it drives better process and outcomes, please visit my Gartner blog for the complete post. Thank you.

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