Dreamforce 2013 Commentary — On Being a Customer Company
I listened to Marc Benioff’s keynote presentation where he extolled the virtue of focusing on the customer: what he calls the customer company. I think it is a great idea and would advise anyone to follow that path.
The thing that nagged at me afterwards was why would any company think it can be anything but a customer company? To me, listening to, understanding and acting on the voice of the customer seems as natural as breathing. How could anyone not?
It’s not even as if it is a new idea. In the 60’s, Peter Drucker, the man described as the first management consultant said “The purpose of a company is to win and keep a customer.” I took my first foray in to the world of customer focus in the late 1980s and have been an evangelist ever since. What it is called has changed over the years: customer service, service excellence, and customer experience all predate the “customer company.” What is changing is the volume of data and examples that clearly demonstrate the payoff that comes from delivering a customer experience better than the competition.
Benioff expounds the eight characteristics of a customer company. I’d like to suggest an alternative three.
- Leadership. An old boss of mine said, “We are either customer-focused from top to bottom or we are not customer focused at all.” If, like Marc Benioff, your CEO doesn’t get it, then get another employer.
- Customer friendly employees. If a potential hire can’t convince you that they would go the extra mile for the customer, don’t hire them. You can’t train attitude into someone. Leadership is important here also. They set the example by their attitude and behaviors and make it clear in their deeds, rewards, and promotions that customers matter.
- Voice of the customer that infiltrates every part and decision of the company. The winners don’t just listen, they act on what they hear. Remember that it is the last part – action that makes the difference. Too many companies spend huge sums capturing customer feedback without following through and responding to it. Recent research we sponsored with Aberdeen shows that companies with Voice of the Customer programs achieve higher satisfaction scores, greater retention, and even outstrip others in growth in sales quotas.