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Guest Blog: How to Get Customer Obsession to Start at the Top

This week we feature an article by Borge Hald who writes about the importance of  being a customer obsessed company and how it is the key to success. We need to obsess about creating such an amazing customer experience that our customers will want to do business with us and nobody else.  – Shep Hyken

In a recent letter to shareholders that went viral, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked about customer obsession and its criticality to remaining a Day 1 company. “There are many ways to center a business…. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality,”* said Bezos.

Customer obsessed companies are the future.  Look at any industry that’s facing disruption and you’ll see the same thing: upstart companies solving age-old customer problems. It’s not that the established players didn’t already know about customers’ frustrations or desires – they just lacked the wherewithal to address them. Their indifference to – or, in some cases, outright disregard for – customers left openings for new, more customer-centric entrants to become the solutions – and the future.

There are only a few customer-obsessed companies. You know them – they are the brands you love. They’re the ones that constantly experiment to add customer value either by either reducing the friction of buying from them or offering new products and services that fill your unmet needs. Customer-obsessed companies don’t always get it right but they course-correct their mistakes and double-down on their hits quickly.

And, perhaps most important, customer obsessed companies are led by customer-obsessed executives. And all of those executives are themselves addicted to understanding the customer.

So how do you get customer obsession to start at the top? Here are a few tips.

  1. Connect executives to customer feedback. In a study of 275 B2C customer experience programs, we found that programs that shared feedback directly with executives achieved Net Promoter Scores 6 points higher, on average than those that did not.
  2. Focus on both data and stories. Feedback must include elucidating comments, not just numbers.  Your executives are storytellers in chief who connect employees and customers to the company’s purpose through tales of impact. Does a hotel executive more effectively drive customer obsession by discussing a 5 point increase in guest satisfaction or a guest’s feedback about how a housekeeper inadvertently saved his life with a small gesture of hospitality?  Stories move people. Arm your executives with stories about customer impact and customer obsession will follow.
  3. Embrace all feedback, the positive and the negative. Positive feedback is great stuff. According to one of our customers, “it’s like turning on a faucet of recognition for our employees.” But to be customer obsessed, companies need to understand the customer fully – not selectively. So wire your executives with all of the feedback, the good and the bad.
  4. Make customer feedback a daily habit. To be customer obsessed, executives need to think about customers, and what they’re saying, all of the time. They need to build the voice of the customer into their routines as seamlessly as possible. For example, with the Medallia Voices™ mobile app, executives get to swipe through a selection of reviews and comments from various channels right on their phones, wherever they are, every day.
  5. Make it easy for executives to share the voice of the customer within the company. CEOs can provide recognition for positive feedback and also raise alarm bells for fast action based on negative feedback. Many customer-centric companies have CEOs who regularly forward customer feedback to people at all levels of the organization, thanking them for their customer-centric actions and/or flagging issues that need to be fixed.

Connecting to customer feedback should be a priority not just for teams who directly interact with customers but for those at every level of your company. CEOs and other executives can be disconnected from the customer experience, and find themselves being “handled” by their staff. In reality, the most successful executives need the full range of customer feedback to make high quality decisions.

* Day 1 is dawn and, in Bezos’ words, “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death.”

Borge Hald is the Co-Founder and CEO of Medallia. Medallia’s mission is simple: to create a world where companies are loved by customers and employees alike.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: How Amazon Competes Against Walmart And Every Other Retailer


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