Passionate and Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and Ten Steps to Do Them Right!

Passionate and Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and Ten Steps to Do Them Right!

by Lior Arussy


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Passionate and Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and Ten Steps to Do Them Right! by Lior Arussy

"I’ve always said that education without execution is just entertainment – and Lior illustrates this beautifully in his book. It is important to learn HOW to implement a successful Customer focus strategy and you need knowledge and process to do it well. Read this book and learn."—Tim Sanders, Author of "Love is The Killer App"

"Lior brings original thought to the world of business, ideas drawn from reality, based on solid observations with the clear objective of helping people make money. Read this and profit."—Jerry Vass, Author of "Soft Selling in A Hard World" and President Vass Consulting

"You might not like this book. It's not filled with easy shortcuts and feel-good platitudes. BUT, when you're ready to walk the walk and not just talk the talk) about treating your customers right and growing your business, Lior's book is a fine place to start down that rarely-followed, very profitable path."—Seth Godin Author, Purple Cow & Free Prize Inside

"Lior Arussy is a true customer advocate. This book is a must-read for anyone who knows that the only sustainable competitive advantage is to create a unique and meaningful customer experience."—Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, CRM magazine

According to Strativity's 2003 CEM global study, 45% of executives surveyed do not believe they deserve the customer’s loyalty. Following a decade of customer-centric books, the market is in a state of crises with over 50% customer focused projects fail. Passionate and Profitable is a new book that takes a critical look at the state of the companies’ commitment to customers and exposes the fatal mistakes companies make and the lip service they pay to their customers.

Full of examples and statistics, Passionate and Profitable argues that customer strategies success depends on making serious tough choices and not cosmetic works. It is those tough trade offs that will help companies unleash their passion for customers and in return, increase their profitability and sales.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471713920
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 02/25/2005
Pages: 204
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.45(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Lior Arussy is the founder and President of Strativity Group, Inc. (, which works with both Global 2000 companies as well as emerging businesses around the world. Prior to establishing Strativity Group, Arussy held executive positions at NICE Systems and Hewlett-Packard as well as various start-up companies. He is the author of several publications, including The Experience!: How to Wow Your Customers and Create a Passionate Workplace, as well as more than fifty articles in such international publications as Harvard Business Review. Arussy's syndicated column "Focus: Customer" reaches more than 350,000 readers worldwide every month. He also has a bimonthly column for CRM magazine, is the winner of the CRM Influential Leader 2003 award, and is the author of the course "Developing and Executing Customer-centric Strategy" (American Management Association).

Read an Excerpt

Passionate and Profitable

By Lior Arussy

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-71392-9

Chapter One

Understanding The Fatal Mistakes

The pursuit of the customer is as old as the search for business success, and we have yet to see a company that will not declare total, undeniable dedication to the customer. Every company believes that they are focused on customers. They have a long list of initiatives to prove it. At the same time, customers feel more neglected than ever. Customer frustration is skyrocketing, and very few companies can demonstrate long, sustainable, and profitable relationships with their customers.

Considerable attention has been focused on customers in the last decade, as shown by certain investments and declared commitments. It is well understood that without a loyal customer, no business can exist. Customers ought to be the center of everything we do. We ought to love, hug, delight, and please customers every day, with everything we do. Why is it then that despite great intentions, companies manage to fail in the most important task they have: attracting and retaining customers? Why is it that despite billions of dollars in investment, executives have very little to show in the form of results?

There is no single answer to this question. In our consulting and research work, we have come across many reasons for failure. We call them the Fatal Mistakes. For many companies, the answer is a combination of several Fatal Mistakes.

The FatalMistakes are considered fatal because companies fail to notice them and to understand how significant they are to customer success. For many organizations, the existence of the Fatal Mistakes means that even before a customer initiative is launched, failure is ensured. They are fatal because they are woven into corporate behavior and culture. They have become an integral part of the corporate DNA and thus are difficult to remove. Companies often try to launch customer programs, knowing about these Fatal Mistakes but wanting to believe that such programs will work anyway. This is just wishful thinking.

Unless companies address and uproot these Fatal Mistakes, their customer initiatives will continue to fail, despite the money invested and the level of commitment demonstrated. Customer-centric strategy cannot coexist with these Fatal Mistakes. As with most strategies, it boils down to a trade-off between tough choices. Ignoring these Fatal Mistakes is a choice companies make every day, one that works against the customer.


Companies admire and adore new things: new products, new customers, new deals, new territories. We live in a culture in which new is admired and old is rejected. Maintenance of the existing is drudgery, left to the lower paid, least important employees; trail-blazing of the new is the privilege of bright, talented executives. Compensation is traditionally higher for new customer acquisitions than for sales to existing customers. This cultural phenomenon sends a clear message about what is appreciated and rewarded in the organization-and therefore where resources should be invested. Employees, taking their cue from top management, will emulate the "new" culture in everyday work. In an environment of ever more limited resources, in which fewer projects get attention, the culture of the new will lead employees to neglect the care and maintenance of existing customers.

In this culture, maintaining and nurturing existing customers is regarded as secondary. We love to sell to one customer and move on to the next. Customers quickly get the message that the honeymoon is over, their business is being taken for granted, and they will no longer command priority attention. Adapting the company's lesson to their own situation, customers seek new vendors who will treat them as new customers.


For many companies, the customer strategy is not an in-depth change of processes, behavior, and methods. It is common for companies to assume that their rather tight and highly efficient operation (which hardly regards customer needs) can stay intact with no changes. On top of that concept, they create a new frosting to decorate their company with a customer-friendly face. These companies treat customer strategies as cosmetics, with colorful commercials, ads, and brochures promising increased commitment and heightening expectations. The customer strategy is not an in-depth change in processes, behavior, and methods. Such companies never bother to examine what needs to change internally, in areas such as products and operations, to complement and fulfill those promises. In fact, most companies hope they will not need to change anything but the external appearance. They want to believe that the lipstick will hide the pig and make it look like a swan.

After years of broken promises, customers are well trained in detecting a pig from a distance, regardless of how much lipstick it wears. Worse yet, the companies themselves have trained customers to be suspicious and cynical and to reject upfront any attempt to cover up the truth with cosmetics.


In the beginning, there was an entrepreneur with a noble idea to make life better through a new product or service. This entrepreneur used passion to create and sell new products. In fact, the company was running on passion-which was contagious and caught customer attention. This passion also drove the company to understand customers better (as well as the reasons they purchase products). Then the company grew, and the bean counters took over. They processed everything and stripped away the most important intangible asset: passion. Without a passion for customers, no strategy will work.

Products and customers are two separate entities, which require glue or chemistry to connect them. Without this chemistry, the product is just another set of capabilities. It is actually not the products or services but the way they interact with customers that creates the appeal and the drive to purchase. For many young companies, the passion provides the glue-a personal touch that makes the product or service appealing. Without this passion, the product becomes undifferentiated and similar to competitive offerings. It loses the chemistry that makes it desirable. Companies will repeatedly deny that they have lost passion when in fact they have, and in the process they have lost the bond with the customer. Loss of passion means losing the core reason for being in business and often equates to sinking into the abyss of commoditization in the name of cost control.


Companies that focus on cost cutting must confront a simple truth that they prefer to ignore or deny: there is no such thing as a free cost reduction program. Any balance sheet will tell you that if you take from one side of the equation, you affect the other side-a simple rule that every bean counter knows well. However, the unasked question in a cost reduction program is: Who pays the price?

Customers pay the price. Cost cutting leads to accelerated commoditization of products and services. Customers begin to see fewer unique and differentiated products. Cost reduction also means fewer people to serve customers, so more of the service is done by the customers themselves. The people who stay on board to serve customers are not as excited and ambitious because their morale is so low. Cost reduction exacts an enormous price, and the prime target is our usual victim-the customer.

As organizations rush to brag to investors about successful cost reduction programs, they neglect to disclose the real price. They act as if cost reduction affects nothing and no one, as if it is possible to cut costs without doing any damage. In reality, cost-cutting efforts over the last few years have significantly diluted relationships with customers. As companies face the challenge of growth, they are also facing disgruntled customers who are resentful that they were left to bear the consequences. Chances are slim that customers will offer loyalty or long-term commitment after such experiences.


What does it mean to implement a customer strategy? How does it impact on the shipping department or accounts receivable? An operational plan is frequently missing. How do we change and align a company around the customer? What changes are even required? Most of the available experience and research focuses on the starting point of the process, perhaps on designing some new messaging or positioning, but very little is done in the form of a full operational plan to implement an organization-wide customer strategy.

Lack of an operational plan means that strategy objectives are not fully disseminated in company policy or employee behavior. As a result, the organization does not live its strategy, but rather treats it as a nice poster on the wall-a mission statement meant to inspire but not to be executed.


Current compensation plans focus on productivity. Maybe the rewards come in the form of lead generation incentives for the marketing department, quotas for the sales force, or production quantity for the operations department. Either way, the focus is on quantity and not quality. This is the current modus operandi, and this is how employees align themselves. You cannot continue to pay people on the basis of productivity alone and expect voluntary focus on quality of service-it simply will not work.

Any major strategic change does not exist if it does not impact on people's performance evaluation and compensation package. Changes to compensation plans are usually harder to implement, so companies prefer to disregard them, hoping they will get away with superficial rewards. In reality, by ignoring these critical changes, they signal to their employees that customer strategies are not strategic. Employees perceive these informal cues and prioritize their work accordingly. When employers choose to bypass customer-related compensation changes, they send a clear message: "This is not important to us, but we want you to volunteer to take care of this yourself." A few top-notch employees may spend some time on customers as a way to get ahead, but "Ignore this Matter" is the conclusion most employees draw when compensation does not encourage customer-focused behavior. After all, if it is not important enough for the paycheck, it must not be very important to the company.


Change does not happen by itself. Customer strategies require some fundamental internal changes. For companies that spent years organized around products or operational efficiency, customer strategies require major changes, ranging from updated roles and responsibilities to completely new organizational charts. People react differently to change, but most of them are fearful of its implications, often perceiving change as a personal threat. Just because a CEO's memo lands in the inbox, it does not mean people rush to execute its direction.

Often we see deliberate or unconscious behavior geared toward toppling customer efforts. This behavior is often motivated by fear of change, blinding employees to the reasons and benefits of customer programs and focusing on negatives they may experience. Change management must be embedded in the strategy, along with a healthy dose of employee and manager training. Employees need to be sold on the initiative, and proper change management analysis must be incorporated into the strategy to mobilize change within the organization. A memo from the CEO will not cut it.


When you look into CEO suites these days, you find many veterans of finance or operations but very few with a background in marketing, sales, or human relations. Corporate leaders are experts in efficiency and number crunching but are not well versed in human aspects. After several decades of experience, such executives tend to view the world through the lens that makes them most comfortable, the same perspective that got them to the top job. Like most people, they simply stay in their comfort zone.

Customer strategies require leadership that sees the business from the customer's view, not through a spreadsheet. Such strategies require leaders with people skills and a sincere appreciation of human assets. The odds are against finance or operations specialists, trained for years in the art of number crunching, as they try to rise to the challenge. They are not to be blamed, because years of habit cannot be erased-but it does not change the fact that true leaders who "get it" are missing in the ranks of upper management.


Most customer relationships are not structured to continue beyond the initial sale. It's often the case that we have nothing else to sell. Needless to say, this approach is costly, because the total sales revenues compared with the cost of courting new customers makes it highly expensive way to do business. Companies do not structure their relationships with customers for the long run. They treat their customers as a destination and not a journey. Every sale is a one-time accomplishment, instead of a long-term commitment.

In our research, we could not find a single well-documented customer plan detailing a two- to three-year relationship-let alone a ten-year plan-with multiple purchases and further commitments. We found many empty slogans, but no documented plans. Companies often leave that part to luck. Trained to acquire customers, they often puzzle over what to do with them beyond the initial sale. It is always amazing how such a crucial part of the business is left to vague, incidental outcomes and not developed as a well-planned and carefully executed strategy.

Lack of structured relationships means confusion and inaction. Without a structured customer relationship, companies often default to the bad behavior of chasing new customers and establishing too many short-lived relationships. By doing so, we leave our customers exposed to the assault of our competition.

Structuring relationships is about responding to expectations and ensuring longevity, which leads to greater revenues per customer and higher profitability. Unfortunately, despite the common-sense justifications, most organizations are operating on a whim and not a well-structured relationship plan.


For many companies, customer strategy development means buying a piece of technology. They want to believe that a magic gizmo will relieve them of the need to confront the tough tasks of strategic planning, process development, and change management. Technology is merely a tool. It cannot do the job for you. You cannot simply buy a hammer and a saw and expect a full dining room set to happen by itself. No brush and collection of paints will create a masterpiece. In fact, it's foolish to buy tools at all before you have a plan dictating which ones you need. After all, what colors should you buy for your masterpiece if you do not know what you are going to paint? Common-sense logic does not stop many companies from attempting to take the technology shortcut.

The temptation that this shortcut might work is often too sweet to pass up. Needless to say, like most other shortcuts, technology delivers only short-term benefits and, in the worst case, damages customer relationships. As in real life, there are no shortcuts when it comes to people. Deeper relationships with customers, like deeper relationships with loved ones, cannot exist in a shortcut environment.

If companies truly seek profitable, lasting relationships, they will have to make a series of tough decisions to determine their success. The first decision is to stop the indecision. The lack of an active decision to address the Fatal Mistakes is a form of choice-a choice that prefers the current operational mode over a customer-centric strategy. By not making the decision to eliminate the root cause of the problem, the fatal failure, companies vote against their customers.


Excerpted from Passionate and Profitable by Lior Arussy Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Top Ten Crucial Mistakes in Customer Strategies xiii

The Graveyard of Good Intentions xiv

Failure Factors xvii

Chapter 1 Understanding the Fatal Mistakes 1

Fatal Mistake 1: Culture of the New 2

Fatal Mistake 2: Lipstick on the Pig 2

Fatal Mistake 3: Passion Loss 3

Fatal Mistake 4: Real Cost of Cost Reduction 3

Fatal Mistake 5: Failure to Operationalize 4

Fatal Mistake 6: You Get What You Pay For 4

Fatal Mistake 7: Management of Change 5

Fatal Mistake 8: Lack of Leadership 6

Fatal Mistake 9: Unstructured Relationship 6

Fatal Mistake 10: Technology Shortcut 7

Critical Choices 8

Chapter 2 Critical Choice 1: Who Are We, Customer Pleasers or Efficiency Crunchers? 11

Lack of Definition and Criteria 13

Intention to Execution Gap 14

Price of Efficiency 16

Corporation–Customer Experience Aptitude Survey 19

Chapter 3 Critical Choice 2: What Is the Role of the Customer in Our Existence? 25

Inherent Conflict 25

The Efficient Relationship Paradox 28

Corporations at a Juncture 31

What Customers? The Second Tough Choice 33

Congratulations, You Are at Par: The New Four Ps 35

Chapter 4 Critical Choice 3: What Defines Our Total Experience? 39

Customer Strategies and the Art of

Customer Experience Management 42

Demystifying the Experience 46

The Emotional Customer 49

Developing the Experience 50

Customer Experience Analysis 52

Customer Experience Mapping 55

Reengineering the Experience Guidelines 58

Power to the People: The Difficult Shift 61

What Is Your Core Experience? 62

Chapter 5 Critical Choice 4: What Customers Do We Neglect? 67

Customer Selection Guidelines 70

Characteristics of Desirable and

Undesirable Customers 72

Customer Role 74

Customer Job Description 75

Company's Job Description 77

Chapter 6 Critical Choice 5: What Kind of Relationships Do We Seek? 81

Symbiosis versus Competitive Relationships 82

What Is the Essence of a Customer-Desired Relationship? 83

Different Relationships with Different People 91

Segmentation Criteria 93

Tailoring the Customer's Experience 97

Chapter 7 Critical Choice 6: How Do We Change Our Organization to Avoid the Silo-Based Customer Trap? How Do We Assume Complete Customer Responsibility? 103

Managing Across All Touch Points 103

Touch Points Analysis Mapping 104

Obsession with Tools 107

Organization-Focused Customer 109

Customer-Focused Organization 110

Assembler Keeps the Money 114

Chapter 8 Critical Choice 7: Do We Employ Functional Robots or Passionate Evangelists? 117

Attitude, Not Skill 118

Employee Experiences 119

Employee Loyalty Leads to Customer Loyalty 122

Employment Hierarchy 122

Guidelines for Employee Experience Reengineering 127

Training Is for Dogs—Education Is for People 132

Delight Them: They Are Human Too 135

Compensation: Follow the Money Trail 136

Chapter 9 Critical Choice 8: Post-Sales Dialogue and Service—Do We Really Care? 139

Culture of the New 140

Taking Customers for Granted 140

Four Checkpoints for Delivering

True Experiences and Relationships 141

Required Tools 151

Complete Relationship Account 153

Visualizing Value 157

Culture of Excellence 159

Chapter 10 Critical Choice 9: What Do Our Measurements Say About Us? 163

Actions, Not Perception 164

Measuring Success: The Customer Style 165

Measurement Guidelines 167

Identifying Business Drivers 167

True Assets 169

Nurturing Rather Than Managing 170

Chapter 11 Critical Choice 10: How Long Do We Milk Our Products? 173

Consistency Is Boring 174

Success Breeds Complacency 175

Innovation Compass: "Wow Me Now" 178

Chapter 12 The Ultimate Choice: Customer Strategies—A Mutual Lifetime Commitment 183

Stop Staring 183

Complete View of a Successful Customer Strategy 186

Organizational Commitment 186

Change the Rules through Amazing Experiences 187

Experiences Build Defendable Market Leadership 188

Employees Experiences: The Customer Experience Enablers 189

The Never-Ending Date 190

Appendix An Open Letter to the Smart Customer 193

Index 197

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