Is The Customer Really King?

Way back in 1941, Kenneth B. Elliott, Vice President in Charge of Sales for The Studebaker Corporation, remarked in an interview:

“The customer is not an interruption of our work – he is the purpose of it.

The customer is not dependent upon us – we are dependent upon him.”

And yet, organizations all around us seem to go about their business as if the “customer” was entirely optional to their success. We may not be doing it intentionally, but many of us are guilty of this crime. Let me explain…

When we roll out bad design in a product or service, we disregard the customer. When we up-sell or cross-sell irrelevant offers to our customers, we disregard their wants. When we include a plethora of unnecessary terms and conditions hidden away in fine print, we disregard their needs. Muraleedhar Pai writes about this malady in his post on the Indian Unicorn, including offering some solutions for those who are willing to pay heed:

On what, how, when and why tell the customer, Indian e-businesses have long way to go. Most of them know content is king and do a good job – some very good. Context is built properly by one or two of them. But when it comes to relevance, they have a long long way to go. In the name of engaging the customer, most e-commerce players waste customer’s most important resource, her time.

Subroto Bagchi, in his advice column to a young (funded) entrepreneur, also found it fit to remind him of what matters most:

Since you are an internet company (well, who isn’t?), do not shift your eye from a fundamental reality: customers may interact with the business you are setting up in a virtual world, but always know, they live in the real world… spend time with your customers with religious regularity, immerse yourself in their world in which they use, not just buy, your product or service.

Put your “customer” hat on, and think back to all the times you struggled with any product or service. More often than not, it wasn’t because the organization didn’t work out the chinks in a highly complex offering, but because the fundamentals were lacking. Customer Service, Customer Engagement, Customer Delight – call it what you may; It doesn’t do much if your organizational culture is focused on internal workings and challenges, and loses sight of what they are working for.

Design matters. UX matters. So does listening to customer needs and trying your best to deliver on those needs. Finally, it helps to remember that your brand is lived, and experienced, in a hundred different moments of truth – from the payment gateway to the delivery boy.

Map out the process, and identify all the ways in which your customers interact with your brand. Then, look for the weak links and go about fixing them, one by one. It’s not that hard to do. And, the efforts will pay off significantly.

We are all human, and want similar things. Good products and services, at appropriate value, in a good experience. It’s not that hard to do.