• 07:00:40 am on April 13, 2009 | 5
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    Customer First? or Customer Only?

    Been reading a lot lately, trying to get caught up after spending so much time in the trenches doing some real work.  Almost everywhere I turn I read about “Customer First”.  Putting the customer first, or ahead of everything else you do.  Why, there is even an entity in the UK that is called Customer First to ensure UK organizations remain true to their customers.  Closer to home, Continental Airlines has been talking about the great results of their Customer First initiative, as well as Northwest Airlines (which merged with Delta recently, another Customer First organization) and even an organization as distinct as the City of San Antonio has gotten on board.

    With all these people you’d think that customer first is all it takes to succeed – but I would like to bring up a more interesting point: it is not about putting the customer first, it is about making the customer the ONLY reason for your existence.  Putting the customer first means that there are other things to distract you from your commitment to your customer.  Making the customer the only thing means that their needs will supersede all others.  It may seem a trivial difference, and hair-splitting semantically speaking, but think about it for a second…

    Do you want to commit all your resources to making your customers happy – or just the ones you can spare?



  • Joseph Michelli 12:14 am on April 16, 2009 | # | Reply

    Esteban, I am big on Customer First…with staff also viewed as internal customers. Functionally, this addresses the needs of staff and customers as equivalent. In my book the New Gold Standard about the Ritz-Carlton, I explore the motto “Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” The motto expects equal treatment of guests, peers and even respectful treatment of staff by guests. I love your work thanks for the follow on twitter. I am following you as well.

    • Esteban Kolsky 12:17 am on April 16, 2009 | # | Reply


      Thanks for the comment. I read your other book, when fish fly, and I love the concepts you create. I think you get the idea of customer first very well. Thanks for reading


  • David Alison 7:42 pm on April 16, 2009 | # | Reply

    Using an approach that focuses on the customer to the exclusion of everything else is clearly a flawed strategy. A business is not made up of just customers; it includes products, services, vendors and of course employees. I have seen companies that will sacrifice an employee on the altar of the customer, often because an abusive employee in the customer’s organization senses they have easy prey when dealing with a customer focused vendor.

    As with most things in life it requires a balance. Employees need to know that they have a responsibility to the customer but they also need to know that they should be treated with respect and that the company will back them up. As Joseph correctly points out, employees are customers too.

    • Esteban Kolsky 9:43 pm on April 16, 2009 | # | Reply


      Thanks for stopping by. Welcome. I remember you from the old WebSurveyor days, hope things are doing great right now. I could not agree more with your POV, and I wish more organizations were to understand that. The end-to-end evaluation of a relationship (customer-company) relies on the employees being in the middle and being the face of the company. Few things irk me more in this world than good employees having to take blame for either a bad customer or a bad company. And they agree, as evidenced by churn ratio across the world.

      I always recommend my customers to extend feedback management and CEM end-to-end, and to relate it all together seamlessly in the back. The insights are 20X stronger than a simple customer satisfaction survey.

      Thanks for stopping by

  • Haim Toeg 6:00 pm on April 17, 2009 | # | Reply

    Some excellent points made in this discussion. From my experience, I tend to come to the conclusion that when a company treats its employees right (with respect, loyalty and sensitivity to their needs) those employees will end up treating the customers right. Paraphrasing one of Esteban’s previous titles, your employees will do unto your customers as you do unto them. They way I always tended to run my organizations was employees first, customers second, everybody else further down the line.

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