- “We had an awesome meeting yesterday. We finalized our growth plans for next year. We’ll be presenting them to the CFO next week.”
- “That conference was amazing. The speakers really hit the nail on the head about what’s coming in our industry.”
- “We finished all the employee reviews before the deadline. We start every year with this fire drill! I’m glad that’s behind us!”
- “This new software update will finally fix our scheduling problems.”
- “The year-end financials are done, and our tax filing is happening on time this year.”
- “Our new branding colors are excellent. They really pop on our mobile app!”
- “The holiday party committee met, and we’ve got our recommendations for the venue and party theme this year. When can we meet to finalize the plans so we can put money down on the venue?”
What do all of these have in common?
They’re all statements I’ve heard, or said, during my professional career. I could’ve rattled off 30 more sentences just like these. All would have represented important activities, milestones, discoveries, inventions, process improvements, or events within the companies I’ve managed (or owned).
But, none of them represented what our customers think. The customer, in this case, is the person or company that’s paying us for our products and services.
None of the sentences describe us communicating directly with our customers or our prospective customers.
None of them focus on why our customers use our products and services.
None provide a greater understanding of how our customers relate to us.
None help us understand how important we are (or aren’t) in their life.
Are we just a faceless machine that delivers something our customer needs at this moment? Are we merely a utility to them?
If we disappeared tomorrow, would they miss us?
Do they know who we are as a company? Do they know anything about our values? Do we know what our values are at this company?
Do they care about our branding colors, or that we’re having a nice holiday party this year? Probably not.
Even when we fail to ask, our customers have powerful ways to tell us how we’re doing:
- When they continue paying us, we know that they value what we’re doing today. They haven’t found anyone else who does it better, cheaper, or both. They haven’t found anyone that they think cares more about them than we do. We’ve won today.
- When they call or write to complain or ask for something new and improved, we can infer that they care enough to ask. They trust that we’ll listen. Our response lets them know whether their trust is well-placed, or not.
Winning today is nice. Winning tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year is far more important when it comes to customers.
While we take care of all the tasks associated with keeping our organization afloat, it’s easy to forget why our organization exists in the first place: to serve our customers and attract new ones.
The customer is the only reason we exist.
Something to keep in mind the next time you put off calling your customer back until after you’ve finalized your company’s holiday party plans.
P.S. This riff about customers applies to our internal customers as well. After all, our internal customers are often the ones who deliver service to our external customers. If we fail to serve our internal customers, you can easily guess what’s going to happen to our external customers.