customer focus

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In business administration, customer orientation is understood to mean the parts of a process orientation and marketing orientation , with the help of which the dependence of the company on the customer is placed at the center of business decisions. A lack of customer orientation can reduce sales or earnings . The reasons for a lack of customer orientation often lie in the corporate culture , the structure and in ineffective or non-transparent processes of the company. The customer is king is the paradigm of the commercial way of thinking. The ability to meet customer expectations is valued as a critical competitive advantage and a seemingly innumerable variety of management teachings and marketing theories deal with e.g. T. commercially with their implementation. Customer orientation means, colloquially and in everyday business life, to see how a customer can be helped, and not what reasons there are, that his wishes cannot be fulfilled. Customer orientation can be understood as an organizational variable in the sense of the customer orientation of the corporate culture or strategic decisions, or as an individual variable in the sense of the customer orientation of individuals.

Customer orientation as an organizational variable

Future trend process orientation

Process orientation is a decisive success factor for consistently practiced customer orientation. This applies to all areas of the company that are linked in an internal customer- supplier relationship. According to a study by the University of Trier (June 2003), 72.7% of the companies surveyed attribute growing importance to process orientation, for example in sales . On the one hand, it is important to compensate for inefficiencies: business processes in the company must be increasingly coordinated in order to successfully master the increasing complexity on the market and customer side. On the other hand, it will be necessary to incorporate process thinking and acting more strongly into the sales area in order to define transparent procedures and behaviors instead of a “ black box sales” that can be better adapted to future changes. 85.4% of the companies surveyed attach increasing importance to faster and more efficient handling of customer wishes and requirements. Structures and processes must be in harmony, whereby the structure has to be based on the processes.

Future trend of virtual customer integration

More and more companies are looking for methods and tools to involve customers in the innovation process as early as possible. It is particularly important to integrate the most innovative customers as so-called " lead users " (von Hippel, 1986) and to jointly develop innovative product and service concepts. The company benefits not only from the problem, but also from the solution knowledge of the lead users.

More and more companies are now using web portals for "virtual customer integration". For example, customers can upload innovation ideas from the product and service environment to a web portal provided and operated by the company in virtual idea communities and present them for discussion; other customers can then take up the ideas submitted, comment on them and develop them further (Bretschneider, 2012). Examples of idea communities are the "Ideastorm" community from DELL or the "MyStarbucks" community from Starbucks. The customer can take on the roles of (1) idea generator, (2) idea selector, (3) co-developer and even “marketing partner” (Rohrbeck, Steinhoff, Perder, 2010).

Customer expectations of tomorrow

51.5% of those surveyed are convinced that increasing customer requirements will be one of the greatest challenges in the future sales scenario for 2010. This is mainly because 61.1% of the companies will experience a decline in customer loyalty , which will result from shorter product life cycles , increasing transparency and personal ties that are becoming more difficult. All of the factors together generate more " moments of truth " in less time and thus potential change situations that lower the hurdle of changing manufacturer or brand . Customer dissatisfaction in the B2B area will therefore have far more serious effects in the future than before, so that it will depend on the ability of sales staff and companies to deal with it professionally.

Customer relationship management (CRM) has become an important topic in business theory and practice due to this trend. But this shows the discrepancy between desire and reality. Depending on the survey, between 70 and 80% of companies plan to introduce a CRM; not even 20% have implemented it.

Since CRM is primarily defined from the company perspective through the handling of customer data such as age, place of residence or preferences, a discrepancy between the company's approach to assumed customer expectations and their actual ideas is often criticized. In comparison, the so-called customer expectation management ( Customer Experience Management , CEM) aims to create an emotional bond between the user and the product or provider by creating positive customer experiences. The primary goal of CEM is to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers and loyal customers into “enthusiastic ambassadors” of the brand or product (“satisfied - loyal - advocate”).

"Customer Centricity"

In the theory of corporate management , the catchphrase “ Customer Centricity”, popularized around 2009, describes an entrepreneurial model that is based on the individual customer as a management variable. Its implementation requires the control of all company areas according to customer priorities and the creation of a more symmetrical relationship between customers and the company. A close and individual interaction with the customer is aimed for. Regardless of their number, positioning, strategy, structure, organization, processes, behavior, etc. should be completely geared towards the individual customer. This includes product development, financing, delivery speed, advice and service. The basis for this are u. a. technical media that allow consumers to participate in the configuration and optimization of products.

This radical requirement, however, often comes up against the “master, engineer and product psyche” that is anchored in many companies. B. is reluctant to buy third-party services.

For Peter Fader , a pioneer of the term who teaches at the Wharton School , customer centricity is a strategy that permanently compares company development, product development and service with the current and forecast needs of selected customers. Behind this is the claim that neither the product system nor the marketing function solely as corporate control systems, but that both have to be subordinate to customer orientation.

In Germany, however, the term is mainly used limited to marketing. Attempts to measure the degree of fulfillment of this requirement are undertaken using methods that are similar to the balanced scorecard .

Compared to the Customer Relationship Management , the approach is accrued in that it focuses not only the administrative side of the maintenance of customer relationships and customer data. Compared to the concept of customer orientation, however, the approach in the literature is not really clear; at best, it stands out through the radical nature of its requirements, which up to now have been most likely to be implemented in sales on demand concepts, through product configuration systems on the Internet and, even better, probably only in luxury hotels.

Critical note

Customer orientation is basically a matter of course for every company. Their “discovery” through marketing teaching takes place in an “unstructured field somewhere between pure model platonism and a collection of examples poor in theory” (Schenk). On the part of trade management and trade marketing , the equation of customer = buyer or consumer of goods, which can often be found in general marketing theory, is criticized. Industrial companies and wholesalers normally have traders as direct customers, but not consumers as “final users”, who as a rule are direct customers only for retail companies . The strategic approaches of customer orientation suffer in part from empirical and / or methodical implications such as B. in insufficient operationalization (with the result that it is more difficult to measure), the risk of infinite recourse, the exclusion of the purchase phase, hasty generalization, misleading analogies or excessive abstraction. A measurement of customer orientation always requires a strict operationalization. B. includes the determination of dimensions and an index formation. The idea of ​​customer orientation can, however, prove itself as a heuristic principle for management.

Customer orientation as an individual variable

There is no uniform understanding of the individual size of customer orientation. The best known is the opinion that the customer orientation of people is specified by their behavior towards customers. According to the classification of the factors that influence behavior into attitudes and values , as is known from psychology , there is an understanding, parallel to the behavioral dimension of customer orientation, that the customer orientation of people is a purely psychological variable and is represented by people's attitudes or values ​​towards customers. However, it is entirely conceivable that people behave in a customer-oriented manner - for example because they have to do it - but the importance of customers as an attitude-related variable is not anchored in their consciousness.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Richard Sennet: Craft. Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-8270-0033-0 .
  2. ^ Peter Fader: Customer Centricity. 2nd edition 2012 (first 2011), Wharton Digital Press, Philadelphia, online: [1] (pdf)
  3. ^ Marc Rutschmann, Christian Belz: Reales Marketing. Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-7910-3339-6 .
  4. Each Ritz-Carlton front-line employee can spend up to $ 2,000 to keep their customers happy. See [2] The 10 rules of customer centricity , in: The adaptive marketer , August 18, 2010 (pdf).


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