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Shifting Thinking

11 Common Misconceptions about Customer First Strategy

Henrik Arlund
Published by: Henrik Arlund on 30 January 2019

1. Best practice is best

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but it certainly isn’t the best way to show your customers that you care about them. You could copy your competitors move for move, but what value does this provide to your customers? Always vote to innovate not imitate. Create value, not noise.

Your competitors may have introduced a very expensive looking mobile app to handle customer experience management. Before calling the nearest developer, ask yourself if this is how your customers would like to interact with you, based on your knowledge of them?

2. I should aim to delight my customers 

Many customer experience managers swear by the mantra of surprising and delighting customers without questioning the implications of this. However a pretty extensive study published in HBR suggests true customer satisfaction comes from reducing the amount of effort a customer needs to exert to get an issue resolved. The potential impact from being delighted and surprised is significantly less. That is to say, focus on helping your customer solve their problem really, really well.  

3. Customer first means making decisions based on customer data

Customer data can give an exceptional insight into why trends have occurred in the past. However this backwards facing view is like driving using the rear view mirror. How can you anticipate customers needs if you only know their past trends?  Data should be used to highlight trends that influence decision-making, however to understand causality, seek to build intimate knowledge of your customers jobs to be done. This is the first building block of value proposition design.

4. Self-service is poor customer experience

They say there is nothing like the human element in creating meaningful interactions with customers. That is true, however there is a changing customer behaviour for customers to want to help themselves first and foremost. Post resources, FAQs, product manuals and e-books are fantastic resources for customers.

5. If my employees are satisfied, my customers will be satisfied

Richard Branson famously claimed, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Although looking after employees is vital to business success, it doesn’t acknowledge the importance of satisfying the customer first. In many industries, the customers experience products without the employees present. It also doesn’t acknowledge the need to innovate. Instead it focuses on the importance of good customer service but not necessarily customers future needs.


6. Engaging with customers on social media comes across as unprofessional

The trend towards social media reflects customers desires to connect - not just be sold to. Engaging with customers and potential customers on social media isn’t unprofessional - it is personable. It injects personality into your brand and gives your brand the human element.


7. Customer first is just for customer service

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about Customer First is that it belongs in the customer service department. Call centres, retail and support teams need to focus on Customer First - the rest of the organisation should focus on their own goals, whether that be profit, product development or signing cheques. Customer First should not be left in a silo. It should be integrated throughout an organisation and culture. Everyone should have the attitude of being a customer champion.


8. If I perfect my product, the market will follow

The product first approach is to spend time investing in product features, believing that a great product can create a need and a following. This approach occasionally yields success if the product stumbles upon a latent customer need and solves it, but more often it can be a big waste of resources. Innovating around a customer job is how to compete against luck as Clayton Christensen would say. 


9. We love asking for customer feedback! That’s a customer first strategy, right?

Customer feedback is the key to knowing whether your customer experience matches customer expectations. However asking your customer feedback without a plan to respond or act, this feedback was for nothing but ticking boxes. Value every piece of feedback your customers gift you. 

10. I have a department dedicated to customer experience therefore we are customer first

Customer first is more than a department, more than a team. By isolating the people within your organisation who interact with customer experience, you run the risk of other departments never understanding the customers wants and needs. Customer first is an organisational mindset. Happy customers have just as much of an impact on accounts as they do customer service. 


11. Loyal customers don’t need incentives

Your top customers now might not be your top customers for life if you don’t nurture them. Keep them engaged. Acknowledge and reward their loyalty. If you don’t nurture your best customers, someone else will.