Brain Food: Speaking Out - Don Peppers, Peppers & Rogers Group

The notion of 'return on customer' should be a natural for attendees at the European Conference on Customer Management. Combine that with Don Peppers, often called the guru's guru, and you should have a winner. He wasn't.

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Peppers knew his stuff. He drew us in with the aphoristic 'Customers are a business's scarcest resource' and 'The value of a company is the value of its customers'. Who could argue with that? He talked about the best growth being organic and about how doing too much marketing can destroy 'customer equity' - it's easy to brass-off your customers with too many mailshots. But Peppers' strident American style proved relentless and unsuited to a mostly British audience, and he soon struggled to keep within his allotted hour and a half: poor preparation and clearly no rehearsal.

He did what so many people do when faced with overrunning: he speeded up into a gabble, flipping though his slides. Given that they were desperately overwritten, this created frustration in the audience. And he went from the generality of customer value into its specifics. How do you measure it? Up on the screen went a formula for quantifying what your customers are worth based on the monetary value in a firm. The more he tried to explain, the more puzzling it became.

So, what did we get overall? A confusing formula or two, and because he overran, no chance to ask questions.

Key moment: The revelation that Ritz Carlton bellboys can spend up to $2,000 to fix a customer complaint.

Key lesson: A one-and-a-half-hour slot requires careful preparation and rehearsal.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth?...

Khalid Aziz, a professor of business communications at Southampton University, is chairman of the Aziz Corporation -

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