I’ve got a question for you:

How often do you talk to your customers?

Somewhere in the past few months, I wrote somewhere about the idea that customer service is the cheapest and best form of marketing.

I truly believe that.

But that’s not where I want to take this discussion.

Instead I want to spend a few minutes thinking about how often you are actually in contact with your customers and how you can use this customer contact to make better strategic decisions, better marketing decisions, and better people decisions.

When you pose the question about customer contact to most executives, you find out pretty quickly that after the hemming and hawing settles down, most executives and mid-level managers don’t have a lot of contact with customers.

This distance between leadership and customers has never been a good idea, but now more than ever…it is deadly to most brands.


Because most of the time, your customer has a much different view of what is valuable from your business than you do. But just as importantly, because the relationship between customer and company has changed in a way that not all companies have embraced.

In the days before we had tons of different review sites and consumer reviews were a given, taste makers were the people that helped you or me decide what mattered most and what should get our attention or our money.

Over time, that’s changed.

The fact that people look to peer reviews and are influenced by peer reviews isn’t new. We’ve been embracing that for the better part of a decade now.

The challenge is often in the fact that not only do peer reviews matter on the plus and minus side, but that we still seem to design our experiences as much to avoid the pain of a bad review as we do the pleasure and excitement of a good one.

On top of just having a different view about the value that a customer perceives from your product or service, another aspect of talking more regularly with your customers is that you gain insight into what they value, how they consume your services, and why they aren’t involved more.

These are all very similar things, but they are also ideas that are typically handed off to data analysis now.

Analytics is great. But in most of our organizations, we don’t need more analysis, we need more emotion and more contact between people.

Think about analysis for a second here.

The 49ers just sent out a survey to ticket buyers asking something about how important winning and losing was…knowing a thing or two about market research, no matter how you word the question the likelihood that the customer is going to answer with something along the lines of “Duh, of course winning matters.”

The thing about being in contact with your customers in a more personal one-to-one manner is that you can skew away from the stupid and obvious. Instead, get to the real and impactful.

My real point is that in far too many places, we treat our customers as if they don’t matter.

We treat our customers as if they are a nuisance.

In truth, our customers aren’t just a thing…they are the only thing.

To win the business of the future, we need to start acting like our customers matter because the difference between survival and failure in the future isn’t going to be price, but loyalty.

You aren’t going to get loyalty with indifference. You get loyalty with caring.

That’s what we need to do, care about our customers…and spend more time with them directly.