The Most Important Question…

If the customer is so important, why are urgent things getting in the way?

I’ve found an interesting theme among those I’m coaching lately. When I ask about customers, I get various versions of blanks stares, or platitudes about how they are trying to stay focused on their customer.

Rather than customers, they are usually focused on some sort of internal organizational issue, the latest restructuring project, the next budget presentation, or hitting the number (whatever number it may be). Don’t get me wrong. These are important; at least urgent.

But, this blank stare when it comes to customers is interesting. After all, isn’t the customer why we’re in our business in the first place? We have a product or service that our customers need or want (hopefully both). We may be the only source for our customer. Or, more likely, we’re one of many providers of the products and services they want.

If the customer is so important, why are urgent things getting in the way? Simple. It’s easy to get caught up in the urgent, often internal, issues. Being busy can feel rewarding.

It’s harder to remember that your organization only matters if your customers think it matters.

Sounds harsh, but that’s all there is…you and your customer.

See if you can answer these questions about your customers. Before you jump ahead, there’s one rule. Write your answers in the form of direct quotes from at least five of your customers:

  • How do your customers use your products and services?
  • Why do they use your products and services?
  • How do your products and services make them more successful?
  • What worries your customers?
  • What are you doing to help with the things that worry them?
  • What do they see in their future?
  • Will you be a valuable part of their future?
  • How can you help your customer get to their future faster?

And, the most important question of all:

  • Does your organization really matter to your customer? Why? (Or, why not?)





If you’ve spent any time in an arcade, bowling alley, or Dave and Buster’s, you’ve probably seen a Whack-a-Mole game.

The player uses a mallet to whack “moles” in the head as they pop up randomly from under the “ground” in front of them.  The moles appear and disappear randomly, sometimes popping-up all at once, one-at-a-time, two-at-a-time, etc.  The winner is the player who whacks the most moles in sixty seconds.

It’s a simple game, and can be lots of fun.  When multiple moles pop-up simultaneously, players have to decide which ones to whack before they all disappear.  There isn’t much time to formulate strategy, or anticipate where the next mole will appear.  It’s all about reaction time, and a bit of hand-eye coordination.

Whack-a-Mole is fun in an arcade.  Unfortunately, many people live their lives like a huge Whack-a-Mole game.  They’re always busy, whacking moles, and constantly on guard for the next one that pops-up.

There’s no time to think.  No time to strategize or find creative solutions.  No time to ask for help.  No time to address root causes…only time to react.  It’s not important that the same issues pop-up over and over.  It’s all about reaction time.

If you’ve allowed your days to become a large Whack-a-Mole game, do yourself a favor.  Put down the mallet.  Look up from the game.  Take time to think.  Take time to prioritize.

Chances are you’ll start to see beyond the urgent and put your focus where it matters most…on the important.

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