My family and I love movie night.
Once a month we will all sit down, eat way too many carbs and watch something together – usually on Netflix.
Our tradition didn’t always work this way. In the past, our movie night – like most family’s – involved a trip to the nearest Blockbuster.
Just ten years ago, Blockbuster was a thriving company worth billions. Now, it has become a cautionary tale. A case study on how rapidly things can go wrong.
A lesson to be learned
The decline of Blockbuster wasn’t caused by Netflix or any other streaming services. The company stumbled because of its own customers – the mistake it made was taking them for granted.
Blockbuster made hundreds of millions each year because it charged customers late fees. This approach could only take them so far as punishing the customers you are meant to serve does not ensure eternal loyalty. Over time, Blockbuster customers stopped being loyal and moved on with the times.
I feel this story is relevant because, just three years after Blockbusters served its last customer, it still has an important story to teach us: the customer truly is always right and should never be taken for granted. Forgetting this simple fact can be a fatal error, as evidenced by Blockbuster, but it is not always irreversible and can be remedied by going back to basics.
Why customer focus is hard to achieve
Though it is easy to proclaim the customer as the centre of company considerations in a board meeting, staying focused on the customer is not always an easy thing to do.
Many entrepreneurs get lost in the logistics of running a business. They fret over increasing brand awareness. They obsess over business development. They get distracted by business decisions that take them away from what matters most.
They stop putting the customer first.
It’s not an intentional decision, and certainly not irremediable, but it’s a common problem. If you recognise yourself in this description, here are a few tips that can help.
Make the customer your sole focus from the outset
In the earliest days of Sprinklr, I spent copious amounts of time trying to uncover what sort of value we wanted to provide. It was my main focus.
I wanted to be clear in what we wanted to achieve and, more importantly, what was possible to achieve.
I asked our clients what social media capabilities would be most useful to them and which they currently found to be most valuable. I asked them what they lacked. What they hoped could be made possible.
Through these interactions, I learned about their aspirations and challenges for their businesses. I made sure that these needs defined how we invented Sprinklr’s product offering to best serve our clients.
It is undeniable that building a company and making it a success requires hard work, passion, and a dedicated and relentless team. However, you must never forget that it’s the customer who all of this should be built around.
If you put your customers at the heart of everything your company does from day one, then you are less likely to become lost and become a cautionary tale for brands that forget their vision.
Assess your value on customer validation
I once went to a huge enterprise company and gave them a Scope of Work without pricing. I told them, “you can put down what you want to pay me – it just can’t be zero.”
Though to others this would seem like a bizarre move, I thought it was a logical decision. Great companies cannot rely on their own assertions of what their product is worth. Everything hinges on how much the customer is willing to pay for it and there is only one way to find out.
A product offering should absolutely be shaped by the client demand, but additionally, its value should also be validated by them. And to this day, I defer to our customers when making tough decisions as ultimately, it is the customer who we serve. I would advise you to do the same.
The bottom line is, your product is only as valuable as the customer determines it to be. If you’re not 100% certain about what the customer deems your offering to be worth, it’s likely not creating the value you think it does.
Entrench customer dedication in the company culture
The most successful companies have exceptional company culture with an instinctual pull to put the customer first. These behaviours occur when nobody else is watching and companies must resolutely work to build and preserve such a strong focus.
I trust my staff to make the right calls in any situation because we have created a cultural DNA that considers the customer above all else. The best teams make all their decisions based on putting customers first.
You need to make sure yours does, too.
Building a successful company is never easy and requires the perfect meeting of innumerable elements. Things will also go awry and problems will arise. However, having an all-encompassing and unapologetic dedication to your customer as your singular focus will give you a much higher chance of success.