Leaders Must "Love" Their Customers
Look, even on your best day you will not be in alignment with every customer.
Whether the dissonance is small or large, organizations exist to meet their customers needs and ones that do it better tend to have greater retention rates because satisfied customers are unequivocally the best marketing on the planet. (According to a study I just made up).
But in serious, anyone that has run a business knows the value of a happy customer. Especially one that is willing to share their experiences with other potential customers.
Which is precisely why business leaders MUST love their customers.
However, it is funny how many do not... or at least they have a funny way of showing it.
When a Leader doesn't Love their Customers
Have you ever worked for or spoken to a CEO or executive that just moans about their customers?
I'm guessing if you've been around a while you have.
However, if you haven't let me tell you something...
This type of negativity is uncontainable.
I have worked in multiple organizations where senior leaders showed an almost inexplicable disdain toward the company's customers. And when a high level leader is consistently verbalizing their dissatisfaction with a customer the fall out spreads quickly and it creates an organization where this type of negativity is seen as okay.
The problem is that customer satisfaction and the customer experience in general is misunderstood. The goals for achievement are set in an unreasonable matter and it starts with a quip that was well intended but completely misguided.
The Customer is NOT Always Right
Somewhere along the lines someone decided that the customer is always right.
The customer is absolutely positively not always right.
The customer is always the customer.
The nuance here is the difference between a customer centric organization that achieves the greatest success and the customer focused organization that allows their customers to abuse them and put them out of business.
Customer Centric, The Right Way
In today's highly connected world where a bad Yelp review can cause your customers off in flocks there is an extraordinarily fine line between managing customers expectations and allowing customers to push you around.
While the nuance between a happy customer and a frustrated one can often be small, customer centric is a top down approach.
Starting at the very top of the organization, leadership must create a culture that is customer oriented. Where the goal of the employee whether senior management or front line is to create meaningful and satisfying customer experiences. However the organization must focus on teaching its employees to manage customer expectations in order to deliver a positive experience that the customer will want to share, while simultaneously making it beneficial to the company.
The subtle difference is when you constantly have to give beyond your comfort for a customer then you are creating a dissonance that makes your feelings negative toward the customer.
Meaning that the focus must turn to creating give-take equality that makes the customer satisfied and the employee happy. If this becomes unachievable sometimes the best thing you can do is fire a customer.
And as difficult as that may be for some companies, continuing to work to make a customer happy at the expense of the business and its employees isn't leadership...it is STUPID!
Shooting for Customer Satisfaction
Let me ask you a question.
How valuable is a happy customer to you if it costs you profit and morale to get them there?
Customer Satisfaction needs to come with an asterisk.
Satisfaction isn't realized unless all sides are better for it. Otherwise it is merely placating them. Further my guess is the customer will eventually be lost because the ability to continue to satisfy them will likely eventually start to cost more than your business can afford.
But here is an important consideration...
What I am saying above doesn't give a leader the right to bash the customer.
What it does suggest is that a leader MUST make the decision between when satisfying the customer at whatever cost is determined is good for the business and when it is not. If the decision is to take care of the customer then that is a continuation of the commitment that the business has made to the customer and should be taken seriously.
However, if satisfying the customer is going to make you resentful and therefore negative toward the customer then it is time to sever the relationship because your business, or any business for that matter that doesn't love its customers is going to be short-lived.
Loving your customers is only a choice for businesses that don't care. And while it feels like something should come after that, I think "Don't Care" sums it up pretty well.
How do you show love to your customers?