BUSINESS BRIEF ; BEN MARKENS
Running a Customer-Intimate Business
In the book “The Discipline of Market Leaders,” authors Michael Treacey and Fred Wiersema de- scribe how businesses must decide
between three basic business models: op-
erational excellence, customer intimacy,
and product innovation. To succeed,
companies must be good at all but must
find one at which they are great. Your
company needs to choose which model
will help differentiate it from the compe-
tition so you can attract the type of cus-
tomers that floats your economic boat.
satisfaction. Operational excellence
might be represented by Red Roof Inn
because it differentiates itself with its
competitive pricing. And product innovation could certainly be represented by
The Ice Hotel of Norway where patrons
stay in a big block of ice.
Although most entrepreneurial firms
have a customer-intimate business model,
truly fantastic customer service is rare.
Recently, I had lunch with a client in
Solon, Ohio, at a large chain restaurant.
When my client asked the server
for a Coke, she said, “Sorry, sir, all we
offer is Pepsi.”
He said, “I hate Pepsi.”
She replied, “I’ll tell you what – give
me a buck and I’ll walk across the street
to the gas station and buy you a Coke.”
Our jaws dropped open.
My friend declined her offer, but we
ended up giving her a whopping tip and
we were almost serious when we said
we should hire her to run our customer
service department. Here was an example
of a terrific customer-intimate experience.
The waitress considered her customer’s
needs and offered to go out of bounds to
address them for him. She knew how to
make us feel satisfied and important while
also thinking about the bottom line – in
this case, her tip jar.
When you’re running a customer-intimate business, you must find out what
your customers want and give it to them.
Once you determine what model fits your
organization, make sure that everyone
who works for you knows what he or she
must to do to achieve the objective. PBP
In addition to being president of the Paper-
board Packaging Council, Markens has been
helping businesses grow for more than 20 years
as managing partner of The Markens Group.