I thought a survey of CEO’s published in the Monday, April 18, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal underscores that many just never learn. The survey was conducted by the highly credible Conference Board, Inc., a non-profit research organization.
The article is by Joe Light, entitled “Most CEO’s Prize Growth, But Other Priorities Vary” (p. B8), surveys ten key priorities across three types of industries: manufacturing, financial services, and other services.
Across the board, the # 1 priority was “business growth.” Also, # 9 (international expansion) and # 10 (investor relations) were unanimous choices.
Perhaps you will be as shocked as I was to learn about where the CEO’s ranked “customer relationships.” In manufacturing, this ranked 9/10, while in financial services and other services, it was # 6. Overall, it received a ranking of 7/10.
What? How can relationships with customers be in the bottom half of the list? How can these CEO’s expect to grow their businesses (unanimous # 1 choice) while not developing relationships with their customers? Perhaps this explains why manufacturing is a commodity for many consumers – since there is no loyalty, customers just buy at the lowest price. When there is not a relationship, issues such as quality even matter less than price.
And, do you really want to work with people at a financial services firm whose CEO is more interested in growing the business (#1), government regulation (#2), talent (#3), corporte brand and reputation (#4), and cost optimization (#5) than you – the customer?
Over the 14 years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have delivered many books about customer service. But this survey was not about perceptions on “serving the customer.” It was on “customer relationships.”
In addition, the article does not even discuss or elaborate upon customer relationships. Even to its author, the survey result does not seem important.
Yet, we have seen many years of published advice on how to develop customer relationships, yielding loyalty, even in the face of changing conditions.
Wouldn’t you really like to sit down with some of these CEO’s and ask how they plan to grow their business (# 1 priority) without developing relationships with their customers (# 7 priority)? Is cash really king? Is the price more important than the person who pays the price?
Are you surprised? How do you interpret this? Let’s talk about it really soon!