Crowning the Customer

- How to Become Customer Driven

Crowning the CustomerReview by Paul Aas, Loyalty Group

Author: Feargal Quinn
Publisher: O'Brien Presss
Release: 1990, re-released 2006 (4th Edition)
Number of pages: 160
Language: English

Available from Amazon.com

Why you should read this book

This is a classic bestseller within management literature!
Thousands of business leaders worldwide have taken this book to their chest and refer to it as "The Customer Bible". "I can honestly say "Crowning the Customer" is the best customer Care Manual I have ever read", says one top business leader. "It's a jewel", says another. And "The secrets of his success are all in the book. We should be grateful Feargal has shared them with us", says former President and COO of The Coca-Cola Company.

First released in the early 90's it was seen as quite controversal in its to-the-point and honest approach to how to run a customer driven company. Fergual Quinn; founder of the successful Irish supermarket chain Superquinn,  has always been clear in his business philosophy; we're in the market to serve our customers.
He shows that his model has worked out; nearly 25 years ago Superquinn was a minor actor in the global retail market, ranked as #291 by size. However after running the business after his strict customer focus principle, Superquinn  was ranked as #20 in the world when it came to sales per square foot of selling space.
So what was the secrets behind this success?
In this book he reveals how his business is run in practice; from the mangement to the frontline employees on the shop floor.
Originally written as a training manual for his staff, Quinn explains 6 important areas of how to be Customer Driven, or Customer Centric as we call it today:

  1. The 'Boomerang Principle' (bringing the customer back)
  2. How to get the feel of the market place
  3. How to listen effectively to the customer
  4. Customer panels
  5. Why you should increase the number of complaints
  6. How to introduce fun and surprise into business.

Through straight forward language, humour, a lot of examples and advice he's able to engage the reader, and inspire them to try out some of the things in their own company.  Also don't be misled to believe that what you read is not applicable for your business since your're not in retail; the whole philosophy is right and important for all kinds of businesses that have customers; B2C or B2B. The clue is to realise that whatever market you're in there's one thing that's for sure; Customers are human beings; not numbers or statistics, companies or organisations. Humans like to be treated individualy, directly and personaly, not as market segments and through mass communication.

Main conclusions from the book

The most important message from this book is to undertand "The Boomerang Principle" or as Quinn defines it: "The name of the game is getting the customer back".
You get insight into 3 important steps to get "the Boomerang Principle" to work:

  1. Always ask: "What will this do to help bring the customer back again?" If the answer is "not much" you should reconsider the suggestion or decision.
  2. Establish metric systems tracking repeat and referral business "What gets measured; get action, but what isn't; gets ignored! "
  3. "You will need courage to choose options whose benefits may be hard to identify"
    Be prepared to rethink short term profit for long term benefits.

The importance to getting a "feel" for the customer is also stressed. By training all employees to put themselves in the customer's shoes allows them to see the business in another way; outside-in instead of inside-out, and this way learn from what the customers experience.

Another lesson to take from the book is the importance of "Listening".
Besides giving valuable input on how to run Customer Panels and Creating Complaints (as feedback systems); there's 3 important "rules" when it comes to listening.

  1. Put in a listening system, and work it
  2. Listen from the top
  3. Make sure you hear what you don't want to hear 

Finally a conclusion that I, as a marketing specialist find inspiring:
"Don't let the accountants win!"
Customer driven people in companies always have to fight with people who have other priorities; many companies are totaly cost driven and focused on the short-term, the tangible and predictable.
That's why it's important that to succeed as a Customer Centric company the top person has to be customer driven. This is also why some people around the world today ask if not the title CEO; Chief Excecutive Officer, should be changed to Chief Experience Officer, to show customer commitment from the top.

The book rating

Even now 2 ½ decades after its release this book is unbelievably up to date. The way Feargal Quinn describes how to get and run a Customer Centric business was far ahead of his time; a lot of his ideas and suggestions are things that later have been pinpointed by institutions such as Harvard Business School, Bain & Co etc.
This is one of the best management books I've ever read and is highly recommended to all business leaders and their staff.
Rating: 7 stars out of 7.

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