Customer Centricity – The Problem – Not the Solution?

Not Be Customer Centric? Focusing on Customers a Problem?

I came across an article today that made me think at first that the author was way off base.  Then, after reading it, I found that I could not agree with him more.

The article, Customer-Centricity Is Not the Solution, It’s the Problem by Sampson Lee, at first tells how so many companies are doing their best to make each customer feel as if they are listened to.  They are listening to all of their customers and doing their darndest to do what they all want in order to keep them coming back for more.  Profits are driven by returning customers, right?  We all want all of our customers to come back to us, right?  Wrong.

You Only Want the Customers You WANT Coming Back to You

Let this sink in for a minute and I’ll explain.    Imagine that you are a local supermarket and a customer requests an item that you don’t carry.  Acting in the best interest of the customer, you order the product from a supplier with a minimum quantity of 25. Now, another customer requests that you provide a different type of shopping cart to accommodate not only a coffee cup, but a sippy cup as well for toddlers.  Then, you have another customer that is requesting that you have a more expansive deli selection with specialty meat.  Trying to be accommodating, you comply as much as you can.

Did I mention that you are a local supermarket that is focused on Oragnic and Natural Produce?  What if no other customer wants the product that the first customer requested.  You are losing valuable shelf space to a product that lies on the boundaries of what your core business values are – Natural and Organic Produce.  They requested a salad spinner to wash their lettuce with.  Only one customer will buy that and it is not a product that will likely be purchased by that person anytime again soon until theirs breaks.  Salad spinners are not a high volume seller.

You can make the case that the special shopping cart and more expansive deli counter would be attractive to some customers, but at what cost to your business?

Stay True to Your Business Purpose and Goals – Your Desired Customers Will Be Your Repeat Customers

By holding steadfast to your core business values and purpose, you’ll not only be serving the customers that truly want what you have, you’ll be able to focus on what you do best… Organic produce.  You want to be finding out who your core customers are, what they like about your store, what they’d like to see offered, how they cook, and if there is anything that you can do to help make their buying decisions easier.  You need to be sure that your suppliers are staying compliant with the guidelines to be labeled as organic and ensuring that your buying is consistent with the profit margins to allow you to provide the items the majority of your customers want and still come out ahead.

By trying to be all things to all people, you’ll simply set yourself up for failure.  You can’t accommodate the needs of everyone. When you can’t, please try to help those customers find a supplier who can better serve them.  Profit margins, staff resources, and shelf space are certainly at risk if you distribute too many resources to the areas that are not the main focus of your operations.

I’ve used a local grocery store as an example here, but all you need to do is consider how your business operates.  If you have the staff, resources, time and space to accommodate many varied requests… by all means, do it.  If you are a three person shop, you’ll need to weigh what the profit and long term loyalty customer gain will be against the short term gain.

By identifying your main customer base and listening to them, focusing on their needs and wants, then you are working in both the best interest of your ideal customers and your company.

Besides, what customer is going to be purchasing processed deli meat in a store dedicated to providing organic produce?  You’ll be quickly called out as not staying true to your values and trying to please too many people.

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