On Career Development: Customer-Centric



It is not the employer who pays the wages.  Employers only handle the money.  It is the customer who pays the wages.

~ Henry Ford

Customer service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company.

~ Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.

~ Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com

If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.

~ Jan Carlzon, ex-CEO SAP Group

Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.

~ Jeffrey Gitomer

This topic is so important I chose to use five quotes instead of one today to drive the point home.  In the FACE IT* career accelerators, the top executives are customer-centric (I also refer to it as customer-driven).  Customer-centric leaders always see the business through the lens of the customer experience.  We can sometimes forget about the customer and get caught up “playing business.”  That ride usually doesn’t last and it sometimes takes a near-death experience for executives to remember business is really about serving the customer.

I know they have received a lot of press, and deservedly so, but Apple is a great example of a company that is customer-centric.  They work hard to ensure every aspect of your experience with them exceeds expectations.  Another would be Disney.  Others would be Zappos.com and Amazon.com.  What companies come to mind that seem to understand what it means to be customer-centric?  How do you feel when you give them your business?  Do your customers feel the same way about you?

A lot of research has been done to show that a customer-centric company has a higher probability of generating sustainable, good profits.  I say good profits as opposed to bad profits.  Good profits are those generated by an exemplary customer experience with loyal customers.  Bad profits are generated from exploiting customers because you can (think unreasonable bank fees, for example).

How do you begin to establish customer-centric perspective in your career?  Begin by just living the Golden Rule – treat others like you would want to be treated.  A good book that gives good advice on the basic rules of customer-centric service is The 39 Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell.

As an executive, how do you create a customer-centric company?  Culture is key, but that topic will be for another post.  For starters, I recommend you implement the Net Promoter System (NPS).  NPS is a great framework for measuring customer loyalty, which really is the driver for good profits. NPS is also, at its core, the true measure of how well you are living your core values.  Loyal customers are your promoters (hence the name) and are an extension of your sales force.  The NPS system is a powerful, axiom-based approach to drive cultural change.  I encourage you to check out the book The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld for more insight.

Customer first.  Customer is boss.  Customer-driven.  Make that how people describe you and your company.  You will accelerate your success.


* FACE IT leadership attributes for career acceleration are Focused, Accountable, Customer-Centric, Executes, Innovates, and Teaches




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