So you say you want to put your clients first…

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

So you say you want to put your clients first. By saying this, I assume you have decided that product/service excellence is not sufficient for you to survive.[1]

In order to put your clients first, you are going to have to think not in terms of the survival of your enterprise, but in terms of the survival of the ecosystem of which you are a part, and of sustaining a place in it.[2] Two things follow from this:

1. There are things to get clear about the way your enterprise currently operates:

2. To get a better handle on what “putting clients first” means, you will then need:

[1] For the competitive positioning of your enterprise not to be sufficient, in terms of its product/service excellence, you must be facing some kind of dynamic in the relationship that you must sustain with your client-customers. This means transitioning to a relational approach to competitive positioning (see value propositions at the edge).
[2] Whether or not being relational is in the interests of your enterprise is a question of the economics of one-sided versus multi-sided markets. When faced with multi-sided demands, the effect of using silo’d organisation, characteristic of positional competitive positioning, is that it results not only in the costs of alignment falling on the client-customer, but also in the costs to the sources of demand within the larger ecosystem being 30%-50% greater (see competing within ecosystems).
Why? Because while the client-customer is getting a worse service (that they have to compensate for themselves as best they can), the supplying organisations get paid too much for a one-sided approach, the additional expenditures going to the suppliers at the expense of the client-customer.  In the private sector this can be left at the door of ‘market failure’ i.e. the suppliers don’t want things to change because it will work against their interests. In the public sector, however, this means that the citizen pays twice – indirectly in taxes to pay for one-sided suppliers, and directly through having to pay too much for inadequate services and/or paying for the gap personally if they can afford to.
The key issue here is this form of ‘market failure’ aka an inability to sustain a relational form of organisation. Hence the question: do you really want to put your customers first?

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