Developing a Healthy Obsession with Customers

Obsession:  An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind

While obsession can be counterproductive, and at worst, unhealthy, an organization’s obsession with its customers can actually serve as a healthy foundation for innovation.  “Customer obsession” is really about consistently listening to and observing people as a way to understand and see their unmet, and often unarticulated needs, in a more empathetic way. It places customers at the center of all organizational decisions and strategies, and leverages data and insights gathered from immersive interactions to personalize the customer experience.

Let’s take a deeper dive into customer obsession and what it can mean for your organization.  We’ll start by comparing customer focus and customer obsession:


Customer Focus Customer Obsession
Customers’ needs inform strategy Customers are more important than everything else—their needs, including undiscovered ones, drive day-to-day tactics as well as strategy
Listening to customers Focusing on connecting with customers, for example interacting with them via social media and other platforms; treating connection with customers as a privilege rather than a burden
Focusing on customer satisfaction Focusing on how to delight customers, make them more successful, and/or add value before they ask for it
Gathering input from customers via surveys and other one-way mechanisms; using the data as a basis for organizational decision-making Interacting with customers in immersive ways to build a 360-degree view of them in all aspects of their lives; acting on that data to make customers’ lives better.

Customer-obsessed enterprises invite customers into the very fabric of their organizations.  They invite customers to crowdsource new product ideas, comment on solution prototypes, and participate in learning launches.  They view customers as partners/collaborators in achieving their missions.  Just as contributors to a Kickstarter campaign have “skin” in the game, so too do customers who have been encouraged to participate in an organization’s mission. This deeper level of participation may help to uncover needs that customers don’t even know they have—the sweet spot of innovation.

Large or small, private or public, enterprises can leverage the power of customer obsession as a foundation for innovation.  Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Ensure customers can easily access help when they need it; provide a variety of access points and ensure timely responses
  • Focus not only on acquiring new customers but actively seek to deepen the connection with existing customers. One way to do this is to continue the relationship after the customer’s initial transaction has been completed.
  • Look for new ways to identify customers’ needs. Question any initiative that doesn’t actively improve the customer experience.

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