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The customer first? I don't know

Or why talking about ‘first’ always implicates levels and a ‘second’ as a lesser place

The reason for this short note is a blog, guess a couple of days, maybe a week ago, on LinkedIn stating, in bold letters, one has to put the customer first.

At that very moment I could not react nor comment and the post vanished into the Blog Forest.

But never mind...

I believe in the importance and the relevance of Customer Centricity. In my daily work I try to be as CC as possible and I really appreciate it to be treated by companies in very CC-way.

… Levels stand for hierarchy. Hierarchy stands often for difference in importance and weight. Winners need losers. No masters without servants...

What I am trying to say here is that we have to be prudent with strong customer statements. We need to think about the best possible ways to make the customer happy, including all stakeholders. How can we make the customer happy without back office sacrifices, without (collateral) damage?

Why am I making this point? In the HIP-Consult national survey about employee happiness (Belgium only) we found out that employees facing external/end-clients are less happy at work. This group can be defined as despondent, as discouraged. These employees seem lost and forgotten in the race to service and to please the customer.

Working and doing research for both “brands” and “employers” I see most often companies focussing upon one party only, the customer from a marketing perspective or the employee from a HR perspective.

I’m truly convinced we always need to invest in order to optimize our CC efforts. The times are changing, technology opens up new opportunities, customer behaviour is evolving and the way to connect with companies and brands is in transition.

But to me putting the customer at the center of things is something different than making her/him queen/king. Making the customer king implies we isolate him on a pedestal and thus disconnect him from those who have (and most often want) to take care of him. Isolation is dangerous (some will go crazy, others will lose touch with reality…) and need to be avoided.

To me Customer Centricity is based upon empathy, respect and mutual understanding. Both parties (and for sure also the customer) need to learn about the other in order to better connect.

We also have to put Customer Centricity into perspective by understanding the needs of those who are dealing directly with the customers.

And when it comes to KPI’s an alignment of the internal and external satisfaction indicators might be interesting.

After all, the kingdom belongs to everyone.

Frank Geers is owner of MaResCon Consulting a qualitative market research agency and co-owner of HIP-Consult; a HR research and consulting agency.

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