thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer-Centricity: Two Meanings

By on July 28, 2010

Why does any organization want to become customer-centered? There really are two outcomes that result from achieving this as a goal—and one of these grows out of the other.

First, organizations that are customer-centered have motivated employees who develop new ideas by looking at the products and services that they offer in terms of how they are helping the customer. Their purpose is working for the success of the customer and this openness to new ideas focuses these companies on pro-activity, rather than being reactive.

Gift_postIn their deliverable, there is a sense of generosity that Seth Godin in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? describes as part of the gift economy, which is “transforming the way we interact.” Gifts are more valuable than presents or favors, because they do not have to be repaid. You do not have to return the gift in the way that you might be expected to return a favor. “A gift costs the giver something real. It might be cash, but more likely it involves a sacrifice or a risk or an emotional exposure. A true gift is a heartfelt connection, something that changes both the giver the recipient.”

Customer-centered companies don’t think they are losing anything by giving something away. Rather, they think of the gift as furthering the relationship with the other party.

The second outcome occurs when a company’s attitude of sharing and designing innovative process improvements places that organization at the center of customers’ thinking. In this second meaning of being customer-centered, organizations attain a position in which their customers can’t imagine doing without them. It is customer loyalty, but deeper. Customers “repay” these companies for their generosity with allegiance -- not because reciprocity is expected, but because these suppliers have become indispensable to them. These suppliers have become more valuable to their customers than other suppliers. Their customers don’t want to miss the new ideas they will be developing for them in the future.

Shouldn’t all companies want to be the center of their customers' focus? A culture of customer-centricity creates the path to what counts—being different in the minds of customers. A culture of giving and abundance, which brings what Godin calls “gifts that touch us, gifts that change us” to customers, will place those organizations at the center of the customers’ universe.

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