Centili Elevate with Don Peppers in an inspiring session

Making the world safer for customers has always been Don Peppers’ mission in life, he said.

One of the world’s leading authorities in customer experience, Don was our guest in the Centili Elevate webinar series last week.

Hosted by Centili Group CEO Zoran Vasiljev, Don joined us from his home in California, USA, to speak about the kinds of thinking and ways of working that promote customer satisfaction. Author of several international bestsellers and Harvard Business Review articles, over the last 25 years he has shaped many of the key principles and practices of customer experience management, one-to-one marketing, and the customer-centric business approach.

The key to success today, Don said, is treating different customers differently. Constantly identify and remove every point of friction from the customer experience, and you’ll never give your customers any motivation to shop around. Then treat each customer the way you would like to be treated yourself, and your customers will soon be “on your side,” helping you to succeed (because when you succeed they succeed). But this way of operating remains a challenge for small and large businesses across the globe.

                                    

Don helped prepare the world for the CRM revolution with his original 1993 book The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time, co-authored with Dr. Martha Rogers. As foretold in this book, the advent of ubiquitous interactivity and inexpensive computing technology would rapidly outdate the old mass marketing business model, based on audiences and markets rather than individual customers. No B2C mass marketer could afford the cost and effort of dealing with customers individually. But technology, Peppers and Rogers suggested, would soon make it possible, and the result would be a world of one-to-one marketing.

Interactivity, he said, has also dramatically increased the cost of keeping a secret, making the world more transparent than ever before, so customers are holding businesses to a much higher standard. The best businesses will proactively protect their customers from making mistakes, even if it means fewer sales in the short term.

Could automation be an answer to the growing challenge and standards that businesses strive to meet? They are part of the solution, according to Don, because machines and technology can do things faster, eliminate errors and reduce costs. But human empathy is the real key to success. After all, he said, empathy is “the ultimate form of customer insight.” Consider that today’s best chess players are teams of human players using computer programs. The computers prevent the humans from making obvious mistakes, but the humans apply intuition and creativity, Don explained. And he predicts that we will see a similar approach in how companies create and deliver a better customer experience.

How to recover from a bad first impression, how to approach negative reviews, how should customer success function be structured in companies? These and other questions were discussed in the Q&A session, with Don’s answers inspiring and useful as the entire webinar.