Allow Pain, Be Yourself and Unleash Your Full Potential


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This is the core message I delivered in my keynote on “Customer-Centricity Is Wrong”, to 250 Dutch audience in Amsterdam at the Customer Innovation Event.

Dutch are always great; I love Dutch audience, and Dutch and I get along very well.

In 2002, I collaborated with Jay Curry–though he was originally from California–and co-developed a CVM method. Six years later I met Annemiek van Moorst in Amsterdam; TOTE-M became our close partner, now with more than 30 consultants being certified to implement our branded CEM methodology for their clients. Last summer, I co-created with Rick Mans (he is also a Dutch) and five social media specialists a 30-page document Social Media Under One Roof: Integrate Social Media with Total Customer Experience Model.

In my view, Dutch are both simple and sophisticated. Sophisticated in the sense that they can absorb uncommon ideas and concepts, and transform them into simple, but not simplistic, expressions and solutions. Dutch are my most favorable audience; they treasure originals, always in sync with my thoughts, and we never fail to inspire each other.

If you asked me, “What do you consider to have been the major development in CEM in 2010? What will be the focus point in 2011?”

It was, is, and will be Customer-centricity. It is a global phenomenon and the sacred belief in business for years and is gaining more support and buy-in. Unfortunate, customer-centricity is wrong. The original purpose, the book definition, of customer-centricity is good and noble: Putting customers at the heart of your business, listen to VOC, understand customers’ needs, and satisfy those needs selectively. But the common belief is: a customer-centric organization has to satisfy most needs and address most pains. It’s against common sense, isn’t it? Which firm could have the resource to satisfy all needs, it’s insane! But common belief always wins out book definition. What is in our head is far more important than what is in the book.

The situation in the west is much worse than in the east, as the west has more ‘advanced’ systems and well-established brands. System drives behavior. The prevailing “I-am-the-customer” Syndrome is driven and accelerated by the political (democracy), the economic (capitalism) and the cultural (individualism) systems, and further fueled by the craziness of social media. The damage customer-centricity can wreak on great brands is profound. A great brand may trade their unique and well-established brand equity for average performance and artificial customer satisfaction scores. A pure customer-centricity would not make customers more satisfied on you than on your competitors, and it creates wastes by allocating resource ineffectively. Customer-centricity is wrong and must fail. But before one could realize the potential impacts, many firms will pay a huge price–reduces customer pleasures, increases wastes and homogenizes brands–to learn this lesson.

I shared my views in Amsterdam. I enjoyed; audience loved. Amsterdam is my city.


  1. I fully agree with your point of view. A happy customer is nice, but I firmly believe that a good relationship should be based on a mutual interest. So, what do you get in return for the happyness of the customer?

    You may want to check out this site:
    (Dutch Customer Performance Index) Unfortunately it’s in Dutch but on the tab “Methode” some English words are used that may help to get the idea. The mutuel interest idea is developed well here.


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