As more leaders discuss becoming customer-centric, I wonder how many actually walk the talk and put actions into their plans. What if customer-centric ideas and tactics were included in all strategy plans?


A strategy that is truly customer customer-focused needs to include ideas like these:

1. Mention customers in your KPI’s.

Profit and revenue and new customer growth are important numbers to track, but it’s vital to include items like customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction and/or Net Promotor Score.

The right way to track customer metrics can vary from company to company. But the important thing is to always put your customer first, no matter what.

2. Revise your communications strategy.

Live transparently and thoughtfully. Tell customers what your plans are and involve them in the process.

Lose all the corporate speak, both inside and out of your organization. Speak and write in the tone you would use for a friend. If it doesn’t sound honest, it’s probably not. Trust your communication pros to get it right by being honest and transparent.

3. Keep investing in employees.

My favorite example of this is how Whole Food CEO John Mackey described his overall strategy.

In a Harvard Business Review interview, Mackey describes what has brought success to Whole Foods. “Customers, employees, investors, suppliers, larger communities, and the environment are all interdependent,” he explains. “Management’s job at Whole Foods is to make sure that we hire good people, that they are well trained, and that they flourish in the workplace, because we found that when people are really happy in their jobs, they provide much higher degrees of service to the customers. Happy team members result in happy customers. Happy customers do more business with you. They become advocates for your enterprise, which results in happy investors. That is a win, win, win, win strategy.”

Nothing serves customers better than happy, well-trained and empowered employees. Investing in them should be part of your overall strategy.


4. Stop shooting the messengers.

Your employees know more than you think. They know which processes and policies aren’t working for your customers. But if they’re not comfortable speaking up about what goes wrong, it’s time to put an end to that, ASAP. Make a positive example out of those employees who speak up about broken parts of the customer experience. Reward the naysayers who make the entire journey better.

Write this into your strategy. Make it a corporate value. Embrace the stuff that goes wrong, and celebrate those who tell you about it!

5. Invite your customers into your most important meetings.

Consider one of your regularly scheduled meetings. Invite at least one customer into a board meeting every month. Ask customers to share their stories with your sales teams at their quarterly retreats. Invite your least tech-savvy customers to speak with your digital marketing department at the kick-off meeting for the online experience redesign.

Customers should be part of the everyday and the important, but if it’s not written into your strategy, they will be pushed aside for the next big goal.

There are so many small changes that can add up to huge results. As you develop your business strategy, don’t forget to include the very people for whom you’re doing all the work.

[Photo Credits: kenteegardin, Raphael Quinet]