Virtually every company out there claims to be “customer-centric”. But I think very few companies really are. And there’s a simple way to tell →
What really matters is ultimately revealed in what we measure.
That is obviously true if we chose our metrics based on our values. But it’s also true even if our metrics evolved independently of our values. Because we organize everything we do around improving our core metrics. That’s why they are always the clearest signal of what really matters in any organization. Our metrics are our destiny.
So, what does that have to do with companies claiming to be “customer-centric”?
It means that we can determine if that claim is true simply by looking at what the company measures. And this is where it gets interesting…
Because virtually every company on the planet relies primarily on the same two core customer metrics:
Customer Satisfaction AND Customer Retention
I realize that these both start with the word “customer”, but what does that really mean?
I argue that these are not metrics of the customer's success. They are measures of our success!
Think about it…
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION surveys literally ask our customers how they feel about us! Really?? Do we actually believe that we are centering on the customer by asking them to talk about us?
And, the truth is CUSTOMER RETENTION isn’t a measure of the customer’s success, it’s a measure of our success! Retention is literally a metric of what we want from the customer!
It’s madness to imagine that these metrics “center" the customer! If anything, these are actually perfect examples of the opposite by making it entirely about us!
What would you think of a person who:
is obsessed with and constantly asking what others think about them?
is focused mostly on what they are getting from you?
Would you say that person is genuinely interested in other people? Nope. We call that type of person a narcissist, and we avoid them because they are toxic.
So, why is it any different for companies?
I’m convinced that the Customer Experience (CX) approach and its obsession with satisfaction surveys (NPS etc.) have ultimately made us much LESS customer-centric!
It's time for a 'Factory Reset' on the Customer Relationship
If we are ever going to become truly customer-centric we have to start by embracing a simple and ancient truth…
IT’S - NOT - ABOUT - YOU!
The entire business world needs to stop right now and take a hard look at how inward-looking we've become.
And if the need for this reconning is not already glaringly obvious, there’s also a loud warning alarm sounding right now in the majority of companies: customer retention is going down and churn is getting worse. And this is just as true for companies that have improved their customer satisfaction scores. What we are doing isn’t working.
So, how can a company truly be customer-centric? The answer is simple: by changing what we measure from what matters to us, to what matters to our customers.
Fundamentally, customers “hire" our product to do a “job” that is important to them (Clayton Christensen). In other words, they come to get a valuable result. They do not come to “feel" happiness but to achieve something real and valuable!
So that’s it. This is the fundamental change at the heart of any sincere effort to put the customer at the center:
→ MEASURE THE CUSTOMER’S RESULTS ←
You cannot convince me you are customer-centric if you do not prioritize identifying the results that matter to your customers and systematically measuring those results to ensure they are achieved.
→ Every Customer
→ Every Result
→ Good or Bad
This single change is the most revolutionary thing a company can do.
Sadly few companies will muster the courage and conviction to do it. But for those who do, the transformation is breathtaking. For one thing, it fundamentally reshapes the customer relationship.
Operating this way leads to what my favorite MIT professor Arnaldo Hax called “customer bonding".
Customer Bonding is achieved when the customer comes to view your company as integral to their success.
And how can customers see us in that light if we don’t even go to the trouble of measuring the results they came to achieve? But it's even worse than that - most of the time we don't even know what their key results are!
The only rational conclusion to this situation is that most companies really only care about getting my positive reviews and my timely payments. And of course, that's completely true.
CUSTOMER SUCCESS ON PURPOSE
What ultimately bonds customers to companies is a shared sense of purpose. We care most sincerely about our customers when we make their purpose our purpose.
Customer purpose - what they are trying to achieve - is what we really exist for.
As long as customers come to get specific results, then our purpose must be to ensure they achieve those results. If you aren't diligently measuring them, then how do you even know if you are delivering them?
It just isn’t credible to claim that you are placing the customer at the center without establishing their achieved results as your primary metric of success.
Ever since I learned this truth many years ago I’ve dedicated myself to helping companies make this shift. It’s incredibly rewarding because this one change solves so many things that vex us and our companies.
This new way of operating is what I call the Total Customer Strategy. This is just a name I chose for the set of new methods that emerged in front of me beginning from the moment I changed my perspective. I came to see that a new name was needed because of how dramatically this approach diverged from the conventional 'best practices'.
DISCOVERED NOT INVENTED
I want to be clear that this approach and its methods aren’t something I “invented” at all, but rather DISCOVERED as I followed the logical pathway that was revealed to me as a consequence of aligning with my customers’ purpose and measuring their results.
One way that I know for sure that I didn’t invent this is because I’ve met countless people who’ve discovered exactly the same principles and methods. People from around the world constantly reach out to me to share their stories of how they came to the same conclusions and how they found their way to these very methods.
After years of working with so many brilliant people, I'm excited that a small but growing movement is beginning to emerge to fundamentally shift our core understanding of what we and our companies are truly for. Every day, more people and companies are catching the vision to align everything they do to their customers' purpose by systematically driving and measuring customer results. I’m deeply grateful to be a part of it.
I hope you’ll join us!