Customer Supremacy 

If you Google “the purpose of a business” you’ll find many statements about what a business is supposed to be about. One example says the primary purpose of a business is to “maximize profits for its owners or stakeholders while maintaining corporate social responsibility.”

I kind of like that one, I don’t disagree with any of it but there is a huge hole in that statement. 

The great business guru, Peter Drucker, fills that hole with his statement that “the purpose of a business is to create a customer.” I wholeheartedly agree with that but it’s an over simplification. Placing your sole focus on creating customers is not a sustainable business model, especially these days. 

If I were to answer the question, “what is the purpose of a business?” I’d say it is to create customers and nurture a sustainable and profitable relationship with those customers over a very long period of time. All this while adding real value to the communities where your business is conducted, be it in your neighborhood or around the world. 

There is a lot to that statement. The customer for instance is the final arbiter of whether or not the relationship is “profitable” for them. They determine whether or not the products or services they receive in return for what they have spent is of value. Ultimately the customer is the only one who gets a vote in this. 

Similarly, it is the communities where the business is conducted that get to decide whether or not the business is adding value to ALL members of the community. Even the members who may not be customers of that business. 

Customers are the center of every business. Every business. Up until very recently I would have thought this was common knowledge. But as is often the case I was wrong. 

In a recent conversation with a business person, a person very high up in their organization, it was explained to me that it’s possible for a business to “mature” to the point where they no longer need customers. In fact, they may be better off without them. 

I’m seldom at a loss for words but I was completely flummoxed by this statement. Rather than respond immediately I remained silent while I tried to digest what I just heard. I figured there must be something I missed, or I was misunderstanding what was said. 

Instead of replying I kept in mind one of Dale Carnegie’s principles that says “the only way to get the best of an argument is to void it.” I said I must have missed something and I asked for clarification. 

The statement was repeated almost exactly as it was said the first time. 

This is from a person positioned high enough within their organization to affect every decision where a customer is concerned. I’m not at all certain that they realize that the profits their company uses to stay in business come ONLY from the customers they claim not to need. Anybody else see a problem with that?

If you’re ever tempted to adopt the same philosophy you need to keep this most indisputable and basic fact in mind. When you lose your customers your business ceases to exist.

Let me repeat that…when you lose your customers your business ceases to exist. 

It doesn’t matter if your business is new, old, or as this person says, “mature,” without customers you have no business. 

Companies that lose sight of the supremacy of the customer will eventually lose those customers. No business can afford the mindset of “win some lose some” when it comes to customers. Every lost customer must be understood to be a significant failure on the part of the business. Every effort must be made to understand why that customer left and what can be done to prevent it from happening with another customer . 

The focus these days seems to be on CX Hubs, and something called “Customer Experiences” and a ton of other buzzwords going around. All of them seem intent on providing more cost effective customer service. All of them also seem to ignore the absolute supremacy of the customer when it comes to even keeping the business open. 

I’ll close this with another rather simplistic statement regarding customers…but one that happens to be true. “Businesses that take care of their customers will always have customers who care to do business with them.”

Never never never lose sight of that fact and your business will be around a long long time. 

On a another subject…I’m trying something new over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular Twitter followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may just be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

A Culture of Customer Service

Over the years I’ve done a bunch of Customer Service Training. I don’t do much anymore because the “new” methods for providing customer service seem to have more to do with profitability and less to do with service. 

I realize this is crazily old school thinking but I still believe the surest way to profitability is to provide your customers with outstanding service. It’s not a one or the other kinda thing. It’s more than a little disappointing how many people and companies disagree with me. 

Today Customer Service “experts” talk about CX Hubs, creating customer experiences, deflecting customers from expensive technical help by shifting them over to a bot or some chat thing. 

There’s actually some research that shows the Gen Z demographic would prefer to not speak with a human when accessing customer support. But not all of them and even if it were their purchasing power does not yet match that of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. 

Most people want to talk to someone who gives a damn about helping them. 

But sadly there’s a lot more money to be made by talking about creating customer experiences and CX than there is to be made by teaching the basic skills needed to truly help a customer and make them feel valued. 

My biggest problem with most Customer Service training is that the best customer service doesn’t come from a series of actions, responses, or policies. It comes from creating a culture of caring for customers. Not only from the Customer Service Department but from every department. When I call a company for help I don’t care what department the person who answers the phone works in. I expect everyone working there to give a damn about me and every single customer. 

There are no “tricks” to helping customers. There is just help. That help doesn’t come from a policy, it comes from a deeply held conviction that helping customers is the right thing to do. It’s always always always the right thing to do. 

A culture of caring for customers can only be “taught” by modeling it. It must be coached and demonstrated on a daily basis. 

If Customer Service isn’t everyone’s responsibility then sooner or later your customer will get the feeling that it’s nobody’s responsibility. If your organization treats Customer Service as an expense rather than an investment your customers will quickly pick up on that mindset too.

Customers by and large are good people. They don’t want to be a bother so when they feel as if they are bothering you they will stop…stop bothering and stop buying. 

How does your business treat customers…like an expense or an investment? Think about that.

Customer Deflections

Companies spend tons of money to attract customers. They invest a small fortune to train their salespeople to professionally represent their products. (At least the good ones do) They hire people to provide service to those customers after the salespeople earn their business. 

The best salespeople “sell” that customer service as a benefit of doing business with their company. 

Those things have always been pretty much standard business practice. Finding new customers and earning their repeat business has always been considered a good investment for a company.

But today some companies are developing something like a split personality. While they continue to invest in attracting new customers they are beginning to see retaining those customers as an expense. 

As we all know well run companies look for new ways to reduce expenses at every opportunity. That’s not the problem…the problem is seeing customer service as one of those expenses to be cut.

Some companies are investing in research to determine an acceptable level of customer intolerance. That means they are trying to figure out just how crummy their customer service can be without losing their customers. Providing a higher level of customer service than the company absolutely has to is considered waste. 

Those same companies send their people to training but not to learn how to better serve their customers. The training is on how to “deflect” customers away from the customer service department. “Progressive” customer service departments “deflect” customers to ChatBots or websites. Sometimes even into an endless loop of holds and transfers. 

This might be upsetting to the customer but just so long as the customer’s intolerance level isn’t exceeded all is well. The customer might not agree. They likely believe they deserve better. 

Some service organizations are actually showing reports with the number of customers they “successfully” deflect each month. I pity the poor salesperson who works their tail off only to have their customers “deflected” to some ChatBot. 

Can you tell I’m a little irritated with this new way of thinking? One thing I can say with a very high degree of confidence is that this will never become an old way of thinking. That’s because companies who adopt it won’t be around for long. 

The consultant who “sold” these companies on the word “deflect” should be embarrassed. 

The word should be banned in any conversation that involves a customer.

Words matter. When a customer care manager tells their team they are trying to deflect customers the signal it sends is completely wrong. It negatively affects even the calls that are accepted. The calls tend to be shorter, more abrupt and less helpful. The goal becomes to get the customer off the phone as soon as possible.

Here’s a couple of questions for companies who have adopted this “deflection” strategy. Do you think your customers would like knowing they are being deflected? Are you willing to show your customers the charts and graphs about how many of them you “successfully” deflected?

Remember if you have to hide information from your customers then you may have an ethics problem. 

Companies that invest in technology to help them deflect customers see it as improving their bottom line. I look at it as decreasing their integrity. That’s because their salespeople are still trying to sell excellent customer service as a benefit. Except excellent customer service has become a mirage.

I’ve never seen a stupid customer in my life and if you’re honest neither have you. They may have been misinformed or misunderstood something but that doesn’t make them stupid. They will eventually figure the goal is to “deflect” them and they will respond exactly the way we all would. 

There are still plenty of companies that have no plans to deflect their customers away from their human customer care teams. The customers who experience being “deflected” will find one of them. Then companies that deflect won’t have to worry about the “expense” of having those customers anymore.

The Customer is Always Right

There is an excellent Grocery Store chain in the Northeastern United States. It’s called Stew Leonard’s. In the grocery business there is formula that determines the retail volume you should expect given the square footage of your space. The bigger the store the more retail volume…seems pretty basic. 

Except Stew Leonard’s has always been known to blow past that formula. In theory they should not be able to sell as much as they do given the size of their stores. 

But their most basic business principle has always been, “The Customer is Always Right.”

That principle is so important that they have it etched into a three-ton granite rock that is placed near the entrance to their store. It also includes an equally important second principle, or rule if you will. 

On the rock you’ll see: “Our Policy – Rule 1: The customer is always right! Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1!”

Now that’s kinda nice in principle but we all know in real life it’s a bunch of bull. Except it’s not. Not for the most customer centric businesses anyway. 

When I do Customer Service training I’ll begin by asking the groups about their roles as customer service representatives. I want to know what they think their job is. I get all the usual answers and for the most part they are pretty accurate. 

But I have never gotten the one answer I’m looking for. The answer I’m most looking for is this: “to make the customer right.” 

When everyone, not just customer service people, but everyone in an organization sees their fundamental responsibility as “making the customer right” you’ll have customers beating a path to your door. 

Making the customer right can sometimes mean influencing an often emotional customer to think differently about the situation. Sometimes it can mean adjusting your organization’s policy on the fly. Sometimes it can just mean changing your way of thinking… actually it will almost always mean changing your way of thinking. 

It means changing your way of thinking from “how can I show this customer they are wrong to how can I make this customer right.” It means changing our mentality to one of “winning” a dispute with a customer to one of winning the customer for life. 

Making the customer right can sometimes seem impossible. Sometimes the customer doesn’t exactly motivate us to want to help them be right. But seeming impossible is not the same as being impossible. It is also not the customer’s responsibility to motivate us to help them. 

Of this I am certain; if you do not always put the customer first in your business then you run the risk of becoming the last place they want to do business with. 

That doesn’t seem to be worth the risk to me so never forget rule #1, the customer is always right…even if you have to work some magic to make it so!

Customer Relationships

I recently was asked by a business if I could help them determine the strength of the organization’s relationships with their customers. 

 

I said yes and then told them I could tell them the strength of those relationships immediately. They seemed puzzled until I told them their customers didn’t have a relationship with the organization. 

 

I could say that because no customer, not ever, has had an actual relationship, in the truest sense of the word, with a business or organization. Human beings only have real relationships with other human beings. (and pets of course) 

 

Businesses that think otherwise do so at their own risk. Successful businesses understand that customers only build relationships with people.  

 

That’s just one reason, albeit a major one, why organizations must take care of their employees. If you’re running a business then you must understand that you cannot have solid customer relationships when your employee relationships are nonexistent. 

 

Businesses that have a philosophy that says employees are interchangeable likes parts of a machine believe that the business “owns” the customer relationship. They believe that their people don’t matter. It’s a “organization first” philosophy. 

 

That philosophy shows itself in many ways. The quality of the product or service the company offers is reflected in that “organization first” thinking. The quality of customer service in an “organization first” business is always substandard. 

 

Turnover and recruiting expenses are often through the roof in an “organization first” company. So by the way is customer turnover. 

 

You will never, and yes I know never is a very strong word but I’m using it anyway. You will never find an organization that is decades old or even older that has an “organization first” philosophy. 

 

Those companies that have survived in good times and bad have a “people first” philosophy. They invest in their people. They build strong relationships with their people. They help their people grow. They know it’s their people who will build those vital relationships with their customers. 

 

If you’re running a business today don’t bother investing a dime to determine the strength of your customer relationships until you’re certain of the strength of the relationships with your own people. 


Building relationships with your people leads to your people building relationships with your customers. It’s the only way to sustain and grow your business.

Customers are People Too

In many industries customers often become more than customers. They become friends. Not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

 

You may think you are in the business of selling or manufacturing stuff, but you are not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business. Learning to show people that they are important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

 

No matter what you sell, every customer should receive your best service during the sales process and after. That service should be delivered in a way that shows you care about the customer. 


Good salespeople listen far more than they talk. They ask meaningful questions and then listen. The best salespeople even take notes. 

 

A Minneapolis business legend, Harvey Mackay, has a long list of information he requires his salespeople to gather about customers. This includes not only information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with customers after the initial sale.

 

It also helps the salesperson…and customer, develop a relationship beyond the sale. It’s far easier to do business with people you know than it is to do business with someone who shows up to peddle something every once on a while. 

 

People like to do business with people who are like them. People who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale. People who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them pops up. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

 

Here is the real trick to building real, long lasting relationships – there is no trick. You need to understand that you can’t build a relationship with a business or an organization. You can only build relationships with other people. 

 

Even the biggest companies and organizations are nothing more than a group of people. Real people. People who value real relationships with other people. Even salespeople. 

 

To build a real relationship you must have the other person’s interests at heart. If you do not, they will eventually figure that out and you will become just another product peddler that they will try to avoid.

 

Customers are people too. Never forget that simple, too often forgotten fact because you do so at your own peril. 


One more thought….if you’re a Sales Manager or a business leader who expects your people to build relationships with your customers then you should know that your people are unlikely to build those relationships unless you have built one with your people first. 

The Only Mission Statement Your Business Needs

I’m perfectly fine with mission statements filled with flowery words and important sounding messages. I’ve even helped write some and I’ve used them to great effect in sales presentations. They make people feel like their business, and the role they play in it is important… and it probably is. 

 

But if your organization’s mission statement does not include the words “we exist to serve our customers” then it’s missing the true purpose of your business.

 

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, your purpose must be to serve your customers. That’s all that matters. That’s ALL that matters. 

 

You can sugarcoat coat it and pussyfoot around your purpose forever but your purpose in business is to serve a customer. Everything else you might say in your mission statement is a distraction. 

 

If you want to add how you’ll serve your customer or how you’ll determine that your customer has indeed been served that’s terrific as well. But SERVING your customer must be at the center of your mission statement. 

 

No only must it be at the center of your mission statement it MUST be at the center of every customer interaction. When you or anyone in your organization forgets, even for a moment, that the purpose of your business is to serve a customer bad things happen. It’s very likely that your customer will also forget something. It could be your phone number, your address or why they ever did business with you in the first place. 

 

If you’re in business to make money then you must know that the best way to do that is to serve your customers. You can’t buy customer loyalty with a low price. Customer loyalty can only be acquired through highly valued service. Yes, it is possible to make a profit, for a while, without serving your customers. The only way however to make a sustainable profit, over the long haul, is to serve your customers. 

 

Do not spiff up your mission statement with so much “stuff” that your actual mission is hidden from your customers or your employees. The only mission statement your business needs will sound a lot like this: “We exist to serve our customers in the manner that they desire.” 

 

There are plenty of others ways to explain everything else you’re tempted to dump into your mission statement… don’t do it. 


Keep your focus on your customer and your customer will keep their focus on you.