Customer Asset Management

"When the customer comes first, the customer will last." Robert Half

There are a lot of things that need to come together to create a successful business, but there is only ONE thing which every successful business has in common and cannot do without: customers. Think about all the business models that exist in the world: there are service businesses with almost no capital infrastructure; technology businesses with minimal employee requirements; low cost providers and high-end premium solutions; commodities, oddities, and monopolies. Some companies hire the best minds to compete, others focus on optimizing their processes for low cost, while yet others patent and protect unique capabilities in the market. But every one of these companies, no matter how disparate their product or market, needs customers to survive.

Customers, truly, are the most valuable asset of any company.

Most of us have heard, if not rejoined, the "customers are our most value asset" mantra. The question is: how well have we actually put this into action?

Here's a simple test:

If customers are an asset, we should have a good inventory of this asset.  After all, we know precisely how many laptops the company owns; the square footage of the manufacturing space; the employee headcount; and the number of patents.

If we are truly managing customers as assets, we need to know the “condition” of the asset.  For physical assets, this means we know the age of the computers and the machines on our production floor, which ones are working well and which ones are running down.  For employee assets, we track performance ratings and know our high potentials from our at-risks.  For financial assets, we know which funds and stocks are moving up and moving down.

A real asset strategy includes investing for growth – we purchase maintenance and update packages for IT; track fund performance and increase investment where we see future potential; we invest in R&D to be ahead of the development curve.  Investments in a customer asset include all of sales and marketing activities; so key questions here include how diversified are our investments (e.g., are we leveraging a broad enough array of contact media); how diversified is our customer base and how are we aligning our investments with that diversity (e.g., do we invest more in the customers with the greatest potential; do we invest differently for different segments based on their needs?)

How long would you keep your financial investments with an advisor who never checked the performance of the underlying funds and never re-allocated to maximize your return?  Not very long.  So, if customers are the most valuable asset of a company, how long should we go without reviewing the performance and making adjustments?  Your good financial advisor doesn’t just wait until the end of the quarter or year and look at past performance.  He or she is also tracking leading indicators and market trends – hopefully making adjustments pro-actively.  In much the same way, effective management of your customer asset requires managing the underlying processes:  lead management; account management; opportunity management; sales.  And requires having the right measurements, the right people, and the right processes to maintain your customer asset and appreciate the value of your asset.