How does a Customer Centric business actually work?

By Paul Aas, Loyalty Group            

SuperquinnWhen I some years ago had the pleasure of meeting one of the directors  from Superquinn, Irelands most successful food retail chain, I asked him that on the way to success they must have spent an awful lot on market research.

As a management consultant with deep roots in market research I was eager to get confirmation that market research; "facts", was the backbone of every successful business decision. However I was very disappointed when he answered "Nill, zero, nothing!" , "But how come?" I started arguing.

Then he shared their secret: "Whatever you do always listen to and value your customers."

OK, I said, but how does that "defend" the fact that Superquinn don't do market research. He then answered: "But in fact it's not completely true", and I felt my confidence rising again, "we actually do it all the time".  "All the time?" I said, "but you just said...." he cut me off and said "we have 100s of researchers out there every day", and he left me with a large question mark.

"The fact is that all our customers and employees are our researchers who give us feedback all the time, even the top management has to take their turn 'on the floor' a few days every month, to hear, see and feel how the shop works. "

"But it's the feedback from customers that's most important; in addition to a close dialog with them on a daily basis we invite 8 customers at least every second week to a local panel in every store. These are our ears and eyes out there in our shops".

In market research there's a saying; "What gets measured,- gets done". So how does Superquinn actually turn all the customer feedback into 'action'?

Then he told me more about the secret for Superquinn's success:

"We listen to our customers and act on what they tell us."

"There's no-one who's better qualified to tell you how to run your business than your customers, because your business is dependent of them."

 That's what Superquinn have done; made their food retail stores according to how their customers want it; that's what we today call Customer Centricity in practice.

Not only do Superquinn continuously get important feedback about things that are not working or is faulty, but they also get ideas for improvements and activities. In fact; some of the most popular things they have done have been based on ideas from their customers.

All this makes it a real Customer Experience to visit one of the Superquinn stores.

"It's a jungle out there!"

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle when the sun comes up, you'd better run for your life"
African proverb

It's all a question about survival: survival of the fittest. However it's not necessary a question of strength, but about who is most adaptive to change.

For Superquinn and all companies dealing with customers it's an endless battle about getting the customer in and have them coming back time after time; what Fergal Quinn calls "the Boomerang Principle".

One important way to secure regular income and profit for your company is to build your company 'around' your customers; - like Superquinn. "The Boomerang Principle" works because the whole organisation is drilled to put the customer in the centre of 'everything' they do.

To succeed they have to operate by what I often call the "4 M" approach. To get an active customer relationship to work you have to secure:

  • Involvement; all levels of the organisation have to be committed and actively contribute to the customer program.
  • Measurement; continuous customer feedback must be secured.
  • Development; changes and improvements should be based on facts and customer feedback
  • Empowerment; delegate and train employees to make their own decisions to secure happy customers.

To learn more about how to become Customer Centric I would strongly recommend Feargal Quinn's  2 books "Crowning the Customer" and ""Mind your own business".

And of course, you are always welcome to contact Loyalty Group for an inspirational dialogue.