‘‘Customer-centered,’’ ‘‘user experience,’’ ‘‘delighting customers,’’ and ‘‘user-friendly’’ have become mantras for many businesses in recent years. They describe important goals that, if achieved, can lead to competitive success. But the goals are rarely realized and these phrases are acquiring an unintended irony, or worse, the empty ring of a marketing slogan representing no tangible benefit to users at all.

Why has it been so difficult for companies to actually achieve great customer experiences that lead to above-average growth in market share, profit margin and customer loyalty? If it is so obvious that paying attention to customers is important, why are there not more examples of success?

Our contention is that ‘‘customer-centered’’ strategies normally fall short because marketing and development teams miss what is fundamentally important to their consumers. They make the mistake of thinking they can achieve customer delight simply by refining research on markets. Companies do market research using as a starting point their current offerings, which are defined by product, distribution, promotion and price. The problem is that the first three are all company-centered, not customer-centered. This leaves price as the only factor that both the company and the customer care about. Companies who do not want to compete on price alone need to find factors that are important to consumers.

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