The Market Culture and Customer Culture are both focused on the external customer, but the difference lies in the nature of that focus. The Market Culture seeks to discern technical wants and needs of the customer; the Customer Culture seeks to understand the feelings and perceptions of customers through effective interpersonal communications. Perhaps there is a relationship between the two, but there are important differences, from a customer service standpoint. Consider the powerful truth of the following point: it is not whether you solve a customer’s problem in exactly the way they want it to be solved (technical solution); what is important is that the customer feels like you are doing all you can to address their problems and that you are sensitive to their situation (relationship oriented solution).
Consider a customer who is angry because his luggage has been lost. The customer demands that the luggage be found immediately. Now, this demand may be impossible to meet. From a Market Culture perspective, if we are not able to solve the problem immediately, we have, technically, failed to meet the customer’s need. The Market Culture would predict that our failure to find the luggage immediately will soon be reflected in lower customer ratings and profitability. Luckily, a good dose of Customer Culture will almost guarantee that ratings or profitability will not plummet. In fact, if we play our cards right, the result may be quite the opposite. The Customer Culture recognizes that we may “smooth” situations if we address the relationship side of customer interactions. Research on customer service shows that we can win the customer and actually increase satisfaction and loyalty even if we do not solve the problem immediately—as long as the customer feels like we are a) listening to his complaints and concerns empathetically, and b) making every effort to provide alternatives and possibly compensation in other areas. This example points out how important it is to make sure every employee is trained in the finer skills of communications, relationships, and human behavior. For these are the areas that define the effectiveness with which an organization deploys the power of the Customer Culture.
At the end of the day, customers make their judgments based on feelings and emotions that are shaped by the organization’s efforts to build relationships with them. Technical results are important, but every successful professional knows that bottom line results are, in the long-run, dependent on the quality of relationships that one is able to build with customers. That is the power of the Customer Culture.