Arussy, Lior

Lior ArussyLior Arussy is the author of Passionate and Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and Ten Steps To Do Them Right. Mr. Arussy is the founder and president of Strativity Group, Inc., which works with both Global 2000 companies and emerging businesses around the world. Prior to establishing Strativity Group, he held executive positions at NICE Systems and Hewlett-Packard as well as various start-up companies. He is the author of several publications, including The Experience! How to Wow Your Customers and Create a Passionate Workplace, and more than 50 articles in such international publications as Harvard Business Review. His syndicated column, "Focus: Customer," reaches more than 350,000 readers worldwide every month. He also has bimonthly column for CRM magazine, is the winner of the CRM Influential Leader 2003 award, and is the author of the course, "Developing and Executing Customer-centric Strategy" for the American Management Association.

passionate.jpg asks …

Who should read your book?

LA: Anybody who actually wants to make money from customers. The rest, those who have found a better way to make money without customers, are free to go and read other books.

What are these readers going to learn from your book?

LA: Readers will learn why it is that companies are trying so hard to maximize customer relationships and attract as many customers as possible, yet the customer loyalty, the churn rate, should be disturbing to any company that’s serious about their business model. If we take an example of a Gartner Group study around CRM successes, they’re running at about a 50 percent success rate.

People should ask themselves, “Why is it that companies are spending an estimated $30 billion for CRM technologies and 50 percent of it will be a total loss?” So for companies who are interested in getting serious about customer relationships, and making the strategic choices required to forge that type of relationships, this book addresses the fatal mistakes, and what they should do differently in order to align themselves with the customers.

But maybe 50 percent seems reasonable when, for instance, if a direct marketing campaign achieves a two percent response, they think they’re doing fantastically well.

LA: You’re right about that, but when you look at some of the deeper issues associated with that, even the 50 percent that are considered to be successful are still not reaching the maximum wallet share, or portion of budget available from the customer. Our experience shows that, on average, companies only capture 15 to 25 percent of the available budget for their products and services, because customers distribute their spending elsewhere. Also, if you want to fight margin erosion and price erosion, and you want to distinguish yourself from the competition, then this book addresses exactly why the “one size fits all” methodology, which many companies deploy, does not fit with where customers are heading.

You start off your book with a list of 10 fatal mistakes. I don’t think we need to go through all of them, but could you talk about a couple of them, what they are, and why they occur?

LA: Sure, let me start by quoting the annual study that we conduct around customer experience management. Instead of going to customers, we actually go to executives. We survey vice presidents of marketing and vice presidents of customer care, and we ask them a set of questions about the health of their customer strategies. One of the most striking questions was, “Do you believe that you deserve the customer’s loyalty?” In the survey from 2004—which is the most recent—60 percent of the vice presidents of marketing and customer service said, “No, we do not deserve customer loyalty.”

I looked at that survey on your site, and in fact, that number is much worse than it was in 2003. So things are actually getting worse.

LA: Correct, and that’s what I want to address with the fatal mistake. But I want your readers to understand that we’re dealing with something fundamentally wrong in the way companies run their customer relationships. That’s what I argue in the book—that there is an inherent conflict between companies and customers. Companies are from Mars; they’re focusing on transactions, and not the relationship, despite what they’re saying. And customers are from Venus; they are focusing on the relationship, and they’re willing to pay for that relationship, if the companies will only deliver it.

Let’s go to the fatal mistakes. Fatal mistake number one is “lipstick on the pig.” We go to companies and they’re all plastered with posters that say, “The customer is number one,” and “The customer is king,” and “Do whatever it takes,” and “Make it possible.” They all have the t-shirts; they’ve all got the memos from the CEOs. And they believe that those posters are customer centricity; they believe that customer experience is those posters. Then, when you go deeper, you find that there’s a whole set of processes and procedures that are absolutely in conflict with those intentions of customer centricity and customer experience.

So we find that companies are actually deceiving themselves, are in self-denial, by plastering themselves with the cheapest way of being customer-centric, which is buying posters and t-shirts, as opposed to actually operationalizing. What does it mean to have a delightful, amazing, emotionally engaging customer experience? How does it translate every day to the behavior of every employee? They know how to plaster the posters all over the walls, but when it comes to actually executing it, the posters don’t do it. And the companies make the mistake of thinking that they do.

Another important fatal mistake, which is tied to the inherent conflict I mentioned, is the lack of change management. Because CEOs believe they are already customer-centric, they don’t deploy change management as part of the transformation to become customer-centric, and that is a fatal mistake. What we found is that the employees are highly trained to be product-focused, not experience-focused. In effect, they’re trained by procedures and processes and are motivated by compensation plans that are all geared towards productivity, not quality of service.

Most companies don’t believe they need to do change management, and that is a fatal mistake, because those projects fail. The last one I’ll quote here is the technology shortcut. Technology is a great tool, but if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it, if you don’t have the strategic and operational plans in place, the tool will fail to achieve its intended objective.

Many executives rush to buy the technology, hoping that it will relieve them of the need to make some of those critical choices listed in the book. As one of my clients told me, “What we found out after many millions of dollars of investment is that, even a fool with a tool is still a fool.”

But you also talk about the struggle between efficiency and customer focus. Meaning, you can’t be both of those things; you can’t be customer-focused and also be efficient. You advocate for customer focus over the efficiency, but I’m guessing that a lot of financial people can’t hear that message very easily.

LA: You are absolutely right, and you know, the essence of the name of the book, Passionate and Profitable, is actually playing on one of the major myths in corporations today. Which is, “Passion is expensive; passion is a cost. Creating those great experiences is expensive. And we cannot justify that.” The book argues, “Guys, you cannot justify it because you don’t know the real measures. Because you don’t measure the wallet share, because you don’t measure the real cost of complaints, because you don’t measure the potential of the customer over a long period of time. Because you’re only thinking transactions, not relationships.”

So with that, what I’m arguing in the book is that passion is profitable, and in fact, passion is the only way to differentiate today. Companies today are so obsessed with their six sigmas and efficiencies and processes, that they’ve become slaves to the processes. What’s even worse is that customers have become subservient to the processes.

Recently we worked with a Fortune 100 company. We read the 150-page manual they give to their employees. The word “customer” appeared seven times in the whole 150 pages. Seven times. Clearly the customer became subservient to the process, and this company basically delivered to the customer, “We can do anything you want, as long as it’s black.” That obsession with the processes deceives us into believing that we can build the efficiency model. But the efficiency model is in conflict with customer relationship and experience.

Right. I think you mentioned that CFOs and other financially oriented officers should never become CEOs.

LA: And yet, watch. Where do CEOs come from today? They usually come from a non-people-oriented job. They come from operations or from finance, which are usually the least people-oriented jobs. So they condition the company to think in a certain way, and not to appreciate what they consider the “touchy-feely stuff.” But what I’m arguing is that these “people” issues are important for the customer and for the employees.

When you run an efficiency model, your employee experiences are probably at the lowest level of importance. When you talk to your employees only about money, only about how much you make, and everything is pie charts and graphs, you don’t address the wholeness of the employee. In fact, you are only employing 20 percent of their capacity. You talk to them about innovation, about caring and sincerity, but there’s no “doing” there. There’s no employee experience to help create the experience for the customer.

Right. Which, it seems to me, once you do put a CFO in as CEO, the real message to everyone concerned is that money matters, and it’s the only thing that matters. When a CFO becomes CEO, is there any way the organization can overcome that meta-message?

LA: This is the billion-dollar question, because this CFO has been in that financial mindset for about 30 years. Throughout his career, he has viewed life through a certain prism. Same thing with the operations guy. If the COO is promoted to CEO, he’s been thinking in a certain way for 30 years. So I would say the likelihood is not high.

Now you’re talking about a major change in culture, which, by the way, links to the change management I mentioned before. All it means is that the change management elements will have to be much more serious, in order to make sure that the organization can make the transformation from product-centric, efficiency-centric to customer-centric and experience-based.

You also talk about how, if you’re going to do a survey of your customers, you should also be surveying your own employees for just this reason—to understand their experience of working within your company.

LA: We actually developed a tool around that area. What we found out is that when you present negative customer satisfaction results to an employee, deep down—they won’t say it, they won’t externalize it, but deep down—they will say, “Yeah, I’m doing fine. It’s my friend who’s not doing so well. It’s the other division that is not performing.” Because of this, we decided to calibrate based on a set of questions, both for customers and for employees. One of them, for example, was, “I often exceed customer expectations.”

Then we’ll ask a customer to give a value to the statement, “I often have my expectations exceeded.” The interesting thing—and this is a consistent result that we’ve seen in all the studies—is that about 95 or 96 percent of the employees claim they exceed customer expectations. Yet, on average, only about 30 percent of the customers agree with the same statement.

Obviously there are some serious gaps between what the employees believe they deliver, versus what the customers actually experience. And when you don’t link those two, you will never know the truth about how well you’re executing.

Is that somehow related to your statement that customers are “emotional, not just logical”? You go on to describe how scary that is to so many people working in large companies. Why is that?

LA: Emotion is something that companies usually don’t feel comfortable with. They view life through graphs and statistics. Think about it: When you go to a restaurant, and somebody asks you what you would like to drink, you don’t answer, “31 percent Pepsi, about 57 percent Coke, and the rest orange juice.” As customers, we think in black and white. We don’t distribute our loyalty in a pie chart; in our mind, it’s going to be a Pepsi or a Coke. That’s what companies do not understand; that’s one element of the emotion.

The second element of the emotion, which I argue in the book, is that when you talk about loyalty, relationship, experience, these are emotionally loaded words. By asking somebody to give you loyalty, you are actually asking somebody to bypass price consideration and give you the business, despite the fact that you may be more expensive. You ask them to be emotional. And my question is, “Do you reciprocate? Do you know how to give emotions back?” Because if you want to be in a relationship, and if you’re going to borrow this emotionally loaded term from real life, from personal life, you need to know how to play the game. You need to be able to give it back, and my point is that emotions are great. That’s exactly what will get us out of the commoditization rut; that’s exactly what we are asking customers to give us. But we need to be able to reciprocate in order to establish that relationship for the long term.

Right. As a “for instance,” I’ve stayed at a couple of hotels in the same chain recently. A week after each visit, I get an email from them, and they want me to fill out a survey. I think they think they’re being customer-centric by doing this, but why the hell would I fill out a survey for them? I’ve already given them my money. Am I supposed to give them my time as well? There’s no incentive for me to take the time to fill this out.

LA: That comes from the same mindset of transaction-based and “lipstick on the pig” programs, as opposed to fully understanding you as a customer. If you’re going to ask the customer to do something for you, you’re going to have to give something back. It’s going to have to be reciprocal; it’s like a relationship bank account.

All you’re doing by filling out this survey is probably helping some executive make his MBOs, so he can get his bonus. But let me give you an example on the same issue. I travel about 250,000 miles a year, on the road, speaking about it, consulting about it, and so on and so forth. I’m a platinum customer of several airlines, and for the life of me, I still cannot understand why not a single airline sends me a birthday card. I mean, how much is a birthday card? I spend tens of thousands of dollars a year with each of them, and the simple recognition of my birthday does not even happen. I recently flew internationally on my birthday. I counted 13 people from the airline who actually looked at my passport, where my birth date was stated, and not a single one of them noticed. No one made a simple gesture like saying, “Happy birthday, Mr. Arussy. You’re with us on your birthday, which is a very important date.” And that’s just one example. Usually, I ask my audience, “How many of you send birthday cards to your customers?” About one hand will be raised. “How many of you even know the birthdays of your customers?” Maybe two hands will be raised. And then I ask them, “What would happen if you went home tonight and told your loved one that you don’t even know their birth date? How long do you think that relationship would last?”

[Laughter] Well, did you see, by any chance, that we had some comments going at our website? Our friend Steve Yastrow, who has some ideas similar to yours, put up a post about the fact that Southwest Airlines did send him a birthday card, and he was quite impressed by that.

LA: And that’s what I tell people, “It starts with the simple thing.” And I told them, “If you think a birthday card is expensive for you, send me an email birthday card, okay? You don’t even have to waste the 37 cents on it.” But it’s a mindset, and that’s the point. It’s a mindset that this relationship and this emotionally loaded loyalty you’re asking for has to be reciprocal. Part of what the book argues is not “Everybody must agree that the customer is king in some format or another,” but that companies fail in the operationalizing element. They fail to make it something that everybody does.

I often ask my clients, “Who owns the customer in this company?” And everybody says, “Oh, all of us, all of us.” And I say, “Okay, great. Then what will happen if the top three accounts, or top three customers of this company depart? Who’s going to get fired, all of you? Are you really being held accountable, or is this just a lip service?” And ultimately, there’s lip service. Could we help them in designing those performance measurements that hold everybody accountable for the customer? Does everybody understand how their specific chunk of the experience impacts the overall experience? Because you’re only as good as the weakest link in the chain of experience.

Right. I’d like to circle back briefly to Steve Yastrow’s book called Brand Harmony, in which his whole thesis is that every person in a company makes an impression on a customer. And so it’s not only the frontline people, but also the invoice you get from the company, any time you see an ad for that company or talk to anybody. All of those lead to the total brand impression. And again, people seem to be clueless about that fact. They think that their ad campaign takes care of how I’m going to feel about some product.

LA: Absolutely correct. What we are probably adding to that is the element of processes and procedures, because what we found is that employees might want to do the right thing, but they are restricted by procedures and programs that are absolutely ridiculous. I’ll give you a recent example. A company told us they are 100 percent customer-centric. So we looked at their customer service procedures and found that one of the procedures was that customers are only allowed to complain within 21 days.

So just imagine what happens on the 22nd day. A customer calls in, and the customer service agent—who feels very strongly, and wants to help the customer—has to come up with some kind of a charade answer that says, “You know, in our company, we believe it’s time to move on. Don’t you think that it’s not good to grieve for so long?” Because the process is so embedded that if the customer service representative tries to open a case, the system will block him, saying, “This is over 21 days.”

So we see that there is a lot of talk about, “Let’s train everybody.” But operationalizing it—removing the wrong procedures and processes, creating common sense training, creating cultural excellence—is what it’s all about. That’s what differentiates Starbucks from those little 50-cent-a-cup coffee shops.

Yeah. It seems that when you get on the phone with some big company, you always have the impression that the clock starts ticking. It’s like managed help, it’s like the HMOs in the U.S. now. You’re in with a doctor, and if he doesn’t get you out of there in 12 minutes, he gets dinged in his performance assessment for the day.

On the other hand, Dell always seems to get bad marks for customer service, but I had just an incredible experience. Some guy spent probably 40 minutes on the phone with me, walking me through a major problem. He was entirely patient; I never felt rushed or that he needed to be moving on. And now if anyone told me a negative story about Dell, I would leap right up and say, “Yeah, but you know, I had this experience.” I don’t think anyone out there quite understands just how valuable that positive experience is.

LA: Because people equate passion and the ability to service people as a cost. A company needs to understand that by treating you well, they’re actually preparing you for the next order. If they understand your real value, not as a one-time transaction, but as multiple transactions, then they will behave differently. But they don’t understand the economics of relationships. In our study, 89 percent of the VPs we surveyed did not know the cost of the new customer, and about 82 percent of them did not know your annual value as a customer.


LA: Yes! This all stems from the fact they’re not running the right numbers. Even if you’re a CFO running the company, if you focus not on the internally measured numbers, but on the externally measured numbers, the ones that are customer-action based, then you will discover the justification for passion being profitable, that passion is the way to differentiate. That passion is all you’ve got in a world where every new product can be commoditized faster than ever before.

Right. There’s a local sporting goods store where I’ve been shopping for nearly 20 years. And I swear, no one in that store knows who I am, and I got into a sort of heated discussion about why they couldn’t figure out who I was. I spend thousands of dollars there each year; I must be valuable to them in some way. I would just like someone to call me by name when I walk into the store. I’m just asking for a little humanness. This is a kind of a mom-and-pop shop, not far from where I live, so it drives me crazy.

LA: I’m actually surprised they didn’t make the effort to do this, because the mom-and-pop shops have this opportunity since they’re not buried in bureaucracy. I mean, the human aspect is what people are craving today. Just look at it. In today’s self-service, everything is web-based. Only humanity or passion can differentiate companies, and allow them to command the premium price! “Just touch me, as a human being.” I always tell people, “You cannot pay your employees to smile sincerely.” You cannot; it’s just not going to happen.

Yet sincerity is the true asset of your company, not what you measure in your pie chart. Can you measure courage? Can you measure leadership? Can you measure risk taking? No, you cannot. Or innovation? And yet, these are the true essence of the company. You can’t order your employees to have those characteristics; you need to nurture it. You need to create a culture that will bring that out of them, because they want to.

Early in my career, I was working in a non-profit organization, and most of my employees were working for very little money, or no money at all. Yet, they still found a connection to the mission, to what we do, to the difference that we make in the world. That brought the best out of them. Too many companies are killing that; they don’t know how to nurture their true assets. Because again, they treat it as a soft, touchy-feely type of a thing, as opposed to understanding that the true differentiation comes from that humanity.

But you write that most companies do not have a detailed plan for what to sell the customer beyond the first sale. Does Strativity Group work with companies to help them draft an ongoing plan?

LA: Yes, yes. We actually do a lot of that, and we teach them, by the way, how to fire customers. We argue that not every customer is a good customer, so even before you plan for the customer that stays, you start with firing the wrong customers. I actually started the firing customers program at HP.

Excellent, we say, excellent.

LA: Thank you. Once a quarter, I sent my salespeople on a day that we called the “No-No Day.” On that day, we took the worst customers, the ones who were not reasonable, whose expectations were crazy, and we told them that we were no longer interested in doing business with them. I told my salespeople that the definition of a win-win is taking your worst customers and sending them to the competition. Then you can focus on the right customer, and let the competition tangle with the unreasonable ones.


LA: So before we even start structuring that relationship over a period of time, we start by first focusing on the right customers, and sending the wrong ones out of the way. When we start structuring the relationship for two or three years, I ask the salespeople, “What’s your plan for three years? Because I cannot justify cost of sales on just one single deal.” Then, we start to see a much bigger potential. We start to see how much money we leave on the table, because the customer is not giving us all the budget because they don’t want to risk all the relationship on one vendor. Because they are used to this one-transaction treatment, as opposed to a long-term relationship treatment.

So who is doing a good job of maintaining a long-term relationship? Or seems to have a good plan about working long-term with customers?

LA: I can give you an example of a program that we did. I can’t name the client, because the client regarded it as a proprietary. We dealt with a luxury car manufacturer who called us originally with a completely different problem. They said, “Look, the problem is that we have a high turnover of employees. Can you come up with some kind of a program to motivate them?” And I said, “We’re not a motivation place, but what is the problem? Why are they leaving?” And they said, “Well, they’re leaving because customers are screaming at them, and they don’t like that.” [Laughter] So I said, “And why are customers screaming?” And they said, “Well, that’s not our problem; we are the Training department. We just needed training!” And I said, “What do you want me to do, exactly?” He said, “We want you to train them to like the customer screaming at them,” [Laughter] and I said, “You’ve got to be kidding; there’s no such thing.”

Oh my God, that’s hilarious.

LA: And yes, it was hilarious. And we actually refused the deal, because we said, “We are not going to train people to like having customers scream at them. We need to understand why customers are screaming.” Ultimately, they let us do our analysis, and the experience mapping, and the experience analysis. And we came back with a very interesting thing: the customers told us that they wanted to be treated like God, that’s what they said. They wanted to be like God, because when they bought this car, which is a very expensive car, they thought they basically bought status, not just four wheels and a steering wheel and the ability to get from Point A to Point B.

So we designed a plan for them. But first, we identified customers who were really not a good fit for the company, those who will always complain because they’re not happy with the price they paid and don’t really appreciate the value. We helped the company go and fire them. In some cases, we actually bought the cars back, and told them, “Please go to the competition.”

You really bought the cars back?

LA: Yes. A very aggressive move, but we freed up a lot of resources that were consumed by those inherently upset customers. That’s when we came back to the customers and said, “From now on, you’re going to have a dedicated person. No more 800 numbers, or anything like that. A person dedicated to you and 24 other people. They will have your name; they will know you. They’ll take your picture and put it in our database, along with your car’s picture. That person will visit you every quarter, personally. Give you a hat, give you a t-shirt, you will be treated like God.” And they loved it. We also said, “By the way, it will cost 5,000 euros.” It costs 5,000 euros a year, and hundreds of people sign up.

For that additional service?

LA: And they pay. Now, think about it: Usually when you lease a car, or you buy a car, when will be the next time the car company will see you? Three, four years?


LA: Well, think about what I just did. Not only am I delighting the customers, but every quarter I’m there to check. “Does your wife need a new car? Does anybody else need a new car? Maybe you’d like to upgrade? Can I give you the latest models before they come out?” We treated them very well, but it paid very well in the way that we run the business. Because we plugged the selling naturally, as part of the service. You see, the origin of the word “sales” is not coercing people to buy something they don’t like. The word is actually from a mid-1500s Scandinavian word, selzig, which meant “service.” The origin of selling was really about showering the customer with service, and then naturally, they’ll come back.

That could have been my Scandinavian ancestors.

LA: Might have been. You never know.

I saw Paul Weir in Copenhagen. Sweden ranked number one in national brand for the popularity among 11 industrialized nations.

LA: They are definitely very brand-oriented.

So you asked me who’s doing it right? Ritz-Carlton can definitely manage for the long-term. They understand both the annual and long-term value of their customers, and they manage it correctly.

American Girl is another good example. American Girl understands that their products are extremely expensive, but that the people who buy them do so because they’re trying to achieve a certain lifestyle, a certain feeling, and a certain emotion. Their return policy is incredibly generous, compared to other companies whose return and exchange policies are very rigid. We had a case when a girl received American Girl furniture that came broken. American Girl did not demand that the customer return it right away. They said, “Keep it there until we send you a replacement. We don’t want her not to have anything at all.” Then, later on when the replacement was delayed, they sent the girl a present and apologized for the delay.

This type of generosity is very, very rare for companies who are acting on a transaction base. So when you want to see the difference between companies who are building a long-term relationship and those that are transaction-based, look at the exchange and return policies, and look at the customer service policies. Are they giving you something back, or are they treating you as a one-time, “we’ll never see you again” transaction?

Yes, but I imagine that people who are more into “commodity” products just don’t see that the margins they’re making would allow for that kind of attitude.

LA: Erik, you just got straight into my biggest issue. Everybody tells me, “It’s a mature market. It’s a tired market. Our margins are difficult.” And I usually tell them, “I don’t believe in tired markets. I believe in tired executives who don’t want to innovate.”

I love that.

LA: Because ultimately, every tired market will have an upstart that will come and kick them you-know-where, and change the whole experience. Look at Virgin Atlantic, look at Jet Blue, look at Southwest. And I’ll give you one more example. When it comes to mature markets, let’s talk about teddy bears.

Teddy bears are definitely a mature market, over 100 years old. You can get teddy bears for free in some of those trade shows. They’re made in Asia somewhere, and they cost you about two bucks, and they’re kind of furry. Then comes a place like Build-a-Bear Workshop that creates a total experience where you build your own bears in a very personal way. You buy them clothing, and you get a birth certificate for your bear, and then they charge you $50, in a mature market, for a two-dollar type of product.

So the argument about maturity and commoditization usually comes from people who are too engrained in their industry limitations to think outside of that. By doing that, they are putting their whole company at risk. They’re taking the chance that some entrepreneur will look at this, see the deterioration of service and value to the customers, and go re-invent it. But they will charge not 10 or 15 percent more. They’ll charge hundreds of percentages more to distinguish themselves from the rest of the competition, and they will win the battle. That’s exactly what Build-a-Bear did to that market; it’s exactly what Godiva and Neuhaus are doing to the chocolate market, which is about 250 years old. It’s what JetBlue did to the airline industry. So don’t talk to me about commoditization.

It’s what our friend Kevin Roberts would call a “lovemark.” His book Lovemarks is all about going beyond the brand. Lovemarks is basically passion, and he’s at your same point—that you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get and maintain customer passion for your product or service. And it can be done, as you’ve pointed out, in a way that’s not that complicated. It’s just a matter of finding the measures and what you deem important, and setting up those systems in your company.

LA: You’re right, and, in a sense, what I’m arguing in the book is that to become customer-centric, there is a set of strategic choices you need to make. I deliberately chose the word strategic, because any strategy entails tradeoff. That’s what companies are not willing to do. They try to do both, and that’s when they end up with this mishmash, non-differentiated, non-distinguished strategy, and the customer’s not buying it. So my argument is, you look at your processes, you look at your compensation plan, you look at how your experiences happen across different touch points, you look at innovation, and not just benchmarking. I don’t care for benchmarking, because benchmarking is following somebody else’s agenda. That competitor is already working on the next level, and you’re just trying to catch up with them! Stop all this insanity, and focus on the customer.

Well, what about a benchmark against different industry?

LA: You could benchmark against different industry, but you should create your own agenda. Innovate, innovate! Make it completely different. Don’t make it like everybody else. That’s what I call “Now: incremental innovation,” as opposed to “Wow: order of magnitude innovation.” Companies get stuck on the “now,” and they forget that they need to “wow” their customers also. They need to come up with something the customer never asked for.

Right. Well, with that, I’m going to say thank you. I think this has been wonderful. I really appreciated speaking with you.

LA: I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you for the opportunity.