business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a CNBC piece about how "a big focus in the C-suites of many of the world’s largest corporations has been the creation of a new executive rank: Chief Customer Officer.:"

I commented, in part:

I guess this is a good thing, in that it represents a shift in orientation - and, if done right, a breaking down of silos - that makes sense.  But it also sort of avoids the larger question, which is why any business that has customers wouldn't make their happiness and satisfaction - not to mention the quality of their experience - central to everybody's job?

MNB reader Tom Murphy responded:

I get a big kick out of this movement…really, in the last 5 years this has become a trend?  Remember what happened to Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) in the early-mid 1990’s?  It was never about the customer, it was about lowering costs, creating efficiencies and squeezing the hell out of the manufacturers.  Even in the first 10 years of the 2000’s customer focus was a joke.  I had a grocery client once that wanted to implement a customer loyalty program to focus on the consumer and generate data.  Two results:  1) they were too cheap to hire someone that could actually analyze data so it was mostly an electronic discount program and 2) when we finally produced a Category vs Customer matrix for a discussion regarding the shrinking of a product category/assortment, all hell broke loose.  The highest sellers on the category list were sold to the lowest margin/lowest frequency customers (think discounts, coupons, cherry pickers, yada, yada) while the best, most loyal customers were buying the mid-to-lower margin products.  What to cut…why the lowest sales/margin items of course!

Unfortunately, in grocery, the old adage of “stack it high, price it low, watch it go” has been dying a slow death!  This is lead by the real power executive, the Head of Merchandising.  The great grocers are finally moving away from this, but the others need to cycle some old-timers out of leadership before they can gain any traction.

From MNB reader Jim House:

Excellent points! Most companies are in the people business, they just happen to sell some type of product. I love the idea about contacting your top customers and asking what we can do for them! I agree that we will probably benefit from this experience more than they will!