Companies are not as customerfocused as they think. Everyday experience and customer surveys bear this out. At the root of the problem are two assumptions, both wrong. First, companies assume that they need to offer something unique to attract business. Second, they assume that years of competition have turned the underlying product or service into a commodity. In reality, what customers care most about is that companies reliably deliver the generic category benefits, but, far too often, that does not happen. Therefore, most businesses have a big opportunity to beat the competition, not by doing anything radical and certainly not by obsessing about trivial unique features or benefits, but instead by getting closer to their customers, understanding what matters most to them, and providing it simply better than the competition.
Consider Procter & Gamble (P&G). By the late 1990s, was one of the best known, most successful, and most admired companies in the world. When Durk Jager was appointed CEO of P&G in January 1999, he was only the tenth CEO since the company was incorporated in 1890.
Having joined P&G in 1970 straight out of college, Jager’s experience of the organisation was impressive. But his reign as CEO was the shortest in P&G’s history-a mere eighteen months.
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