“Is the customer important? Most definitely. Without question. 100%. But here’s the rub. You know the 20th Century was as complex as the 21st, but we didn’t appreciate complexity back then, let alone start to think about navigating it. So we needed some practicable rules, and the customer-centricity rule sure was a good one to have. It stood in stark and valuable contrast to the prior inward looking nature of firms. It wasn’t stupid then, quite the opposite in fact, but times and circumstances change and I believe it’s starting to look that way now.
“Here’s another quote for your collection, from Peter Drucker. ‘The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.’”
“Exactly!” I cried.
Saket looked straight at me: “Exactly. Hmm. Well here’s what I think is the single most important element of that quote in today’s terms – walls. In those days an enterprise had walls. The enterprise today need not, figuratively speaking, and should not. And will not. You have a vision of social business. You’ve already explored the concept of Attenzi as a network, as not being defined by its payroll. You’ve already pictured Attenzi as a system with all kinds of people coming together in different forms at different times and influencing each other in different ways. Right?”
I nodded, but it still felt odd. I tried to explain why, as much to myself as Saket. “All kinds of people, yes. But all kinds of different groups of people. One group we call customers. Another group employees. Another suppliers, and another shareholders. They all bring something different to the party, sure, but we have to focus everything on articulating and serving the customers’ needs because that’s our only way to survive and thrive.”
Saket expanded my list: “And some people are the friends and family of employees, customers and suppliers. And some are local residents. And some chose to represent our planet and other species by proxy. And some benefit from the taxes we pay. And some pay taxes so we may benefit from the infrastructure around us. And some are customers of our customers, and suppliers to our suppliers. And so on. Attenzi is a system of systems, and a system within systems.
“As you’re familiar with the concept of customer-centricity, you’ll also know each customer is unique, right. And so I might add is everyone regardless of the role they may be playing, regardless of their fleeting or long-term interest and participation in Attenzi’s success.
“And what’s more, even though customer-centricity appears to reign, even though we say the customer is our top priority, most every occupant of the C-suite appreciates that great employees, critical suppliers and willing shareholders are number 1 priorities too!
“But wait for it, here’s the funny thing….”
My phone rang. It was Rachel reminding me I was due at the school gates five minutes ago. We both had a date with a tall glass of ice cream. I kicked myself.
Saket was polite enough to suggest we continue the following day – after all, this wasn’t in the diary and we wouldn’t want talk of customers to come between a father, a daughter and mint choc chip. There wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in his voice.