What Does It Mean to Be Truly Customer Obsessed?

This article originally appeared on the Quester blog.

Successful businesses usually have one thing in common. Every employee is obsessed with creating a positive experience for their customers.

As an ideology, customer obsession means recognizing that the people who have direct contact with your customers on a daily basis are closest to their successes and their failures. Those front-line employees know the intricate details of what your customers love, like, and hate about your products, services, and touchpoints, and they’ve heard every point of frustration firsthand.

Whether you work at a restaurant that serves coffee to consumers or at a research company that offers qualitative moderation to researcher buyers, every company has their own uniquely wise, front-line employees.

That’s why it’s so important that front-line employees are included in the decision-making process at every level of the company. Customer-obsessed companies ensure that the voice of the customer is present at every important meeting, not simply in the creation of a Chief Customer Officer role, but as front-line employees who live the experience every day.

And, that’s why every senior level employee ought to serve as a front-line employee on a regular basis. Not just for an hour or two during their first week of orientation, but rather for several days on an annual basis. Every single person in the company needs to have top-of-mind knowledge of what it’s like to be a customer and be able to apply that knowledge to everything they do.

Muhtar Kent, the chair and CEO of Coca-Cola, valued at $80 billion, used to visit a store every week in order to learn from store managers or shoppers and gather tips of knowledge about pricing, packaging, and market trends.

Customer-obsessed companies also move power to their front-line employees. They allow the people who are most in-tune with customer needs and desires to be individually responsible and empowered to create value for the customer themselves. Rather than making customers suffer through endless “not my job” and delegation employees, customer-obsessed companies ensure that the buck stops at the front-line employee. Whatever the customer’s problem may be, the first person they speak with will be the person who solves their problem.

Amazon has empowered their front-line employees to offer gift vouchers and free months of Amazon Prime at their own discretion. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, valued at $900 billion, has said, “If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right. That’s customer obsession.”

In essence, it’s reversing, or even flattening, the hierarchy of power – pushing managers onto the front-line and pulling front-line experts into management. It’s creating an environment where the CEO, the C-suite, and every single employee of the company understands who their core customers are. One where every single employee understands and feels connected to the purpose of the company and takes company results personally. One where every single employee feels like an owner.

Because leadership is not just for the CEO, not just for me. It’s for everyone at Quester.

If you’d like to learn more about being customer-obsessed, I highly recommend visiting The Founder’s Mentality website or buying the book written by Chris Zook and James Allen. It’s a fantastic read and will help you bring customer obsession to your business.

And thank you to Tim Urmston, CEO of Seek Company, for recommending the book!

As President of Quester, Tim Hoskins leads a talented team of researchers, developers, and innovators who keep Quester at the forefront of the marketing research industry. Under his leadership, Quester has won numerous awards including an Ogilvy Award from The ARF and an EXPLOR Award from TMRE. He has been instrumental in the ongoing development of Quester’s artificial intelligence technology that enables new and unique approaches to solving client-side research objectives for both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Tim was named a Volunteer of the Year by the Insights Association and currently serves on its board of directors. He is co-chair of the national Corporate Researchers Conference, and on the Collaborata board of advisors.

Quester is an award-winning consumer intelligence firm that harnesses the power of human conversation, artificial intelligence technology, and expert marketing research design to yield superior understanding of consumers for clients. We specialize in innovation, concept development, brand positioning, segmentation, path to purchase, mobile solutions, and more. Learn more on our website.

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