What Is a Customer Company?

04/01/2013 12:15 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2013

I was recently joined by our CIO and invited by to an exclusive event in Boston to see first-hand the company's products, solutions and most importantly future vision and direction. It was a privilege for us to meet with a true industry visionary and CEO of, Marc Benioff, as he unveiled his vision of how companies can compete and win in today's market. Benioff started his presentation by speaking to key market mega-trends -- social, cloud, big data, mobile, apps, community, trust -- and their impact to both consumers and businesses today. The main call for action from Benioff was what companies needed to become a 'Customer Company'. I believe that's customer company vision is absolutely spot-on. As we heard the core values and guiding principles of a connected organization that cares, I felt that our company is completely aligned and supportive of Benioff's vision. After all, our company's mantra, written on my business card under my name is: "There is nothing more important than our customers".

After leaving the event, I had several discussions with my peers, other companies that we do business with, and industry analysts about what it means to be a customer company. I noticed that most people who I engaged thought they were already a customer company. As a customer of some of these folks, I was pretty skeptical, as I know from a customer perspective that some of these companies are considerably more focused on their success than mine.

I believe becoming a customer company is not a destination, but rather a journey. So what are the 'mile markers' on the road that guides us towards becoming a customer company?'s CMO of Marketing Cloud, Michael Lazerow recently wrote a blog about becoming a customer company. Lazerow highlighted a 3 step process of listening, content creation and service delivery as major pillars of a customer company. Here are a few questions to ask to determine your customer company maturity:

  1. Does management encourage all of your employees to connect with your customers, across all contact channels including social networks?
  2. Does management directly connect employees with customers to improve sense of urgency, personalize and scale relationships, and demonstrate accessibility?
  3. Do you have customer, business partner, and employee communities -- publicly accessible via corporate web pages and social networks?
  4. Do you have a strong inbound marketing and content creations strategy, inclusive of customer case studies, video blogs, industry benchmark and trending reports, web seminars, customer and partner training events, and whitepapers?
  5. Are you connecting with customers using their contact method of choice; including email, web, phone, social networks or in person?
  6. Do you have the technology to listen across all contact channels, including social networks?
  7. Do customers -- all of them -- have direct access to your executive team with contact information readily available on your corporate web pages, social networks or otherwise?
  8. Are customers always welcome to visit corporate facilities and remote offices?
  9. What percentage of your customer facing functions, especially customer service and support is outsourced?
  10. What percentage of your employees is mobile and social? Specifically, do you support a BYOD program and encourage, train and reward employees to be accessible and connected, everywhere, at anytime?
  11. How flexible is your telecommuting policy and what is your annual employee retention %?
  12. Do you measure customer satisfaction, loyalty and commitment -- example: what is your net promote score?
  13. Do you have a chief customer officer function in your company and does she report to your CEO?
  14. Do you connect your customers and/or prospects to your entire ecosystem, in order to cultivate a knowledge sharing ecosystem?

Of course this is not a comprehensive list. So we welcome you to add your questions and comments -- please contact us via Twitter using #customercompany hash-tag. I did ask my Twitter network of nearly 15,000 followers the following: "A customer company is ____". Below is some of their brilliant answers:

  • @MarkOlivito: company that makes itself indispensable to customers, profitably growing together. Partners in profit.
  • @DirkBeveridge: one that constantly improves value proposition -- continuous search for unmet needs & then ways to fulfill
  • @lauralilienthal: A company that lives & breathes customer satisfaction, in every department & at every level.
  • @juliehenn: A 'customer company' acts as a community for mutual benefit -- the line between customer and company is erased.
  • @JamesMSama: A "Customer company" is one which listens to their consumers' feedback and adjusts accordingly. Happy customers are loyal ones.
  • @GregLimperis: A customer company is social and listens to what their customers want and helps them have it.
  • @tmorettin: a place where no point of escalation is needed. Each employee owns their brand and mutual success ensues.
  • @ryan_t_hall21: A customer company internalizes feedback from the end user to influence strategy, it is a mentality ingrained in its culture
  • @SalemO2: before its management make any decisions , they would ask themselves " how our customers would benefit from that ?"
  • @applebyj: a customer company puts values and customers ahead of their own short-term economic success in belief of long term win
  • @JackRipley_: a customer company: provides avenues for valued customer collaboration. Resulting in success for business & customer.
  • @mangelet: it's the conscious recognition that your business exists to serve others [yeah customers]
  • @mskaff: A customer-centric company understands not just what customers want to buy, but how & most importantly *why*.
  • @jeffgilling: A company that truly desires to build a connect with the heart -- not just the head -- of their customers.
  • @VaradhKrish: a company that thinks that they exist because of the customer. a company which says "help us to help you" in a true way.
  • @wbendle: a customer company relentlessly pursues (as their primary purpose) the creation of new exciting value for their customers
  • @cybercalci: Customers are their most valuable assets. They build a social relationship with customers.

This blog was co-authored by Dan Petlon, CIO of Enterasys.