Alexis Monville (en)

It is not Customer-First, it is Customer-Centered

Who wouldn’t dream of being in a People First company? A lot made it a philosophy like Vineet Nayar, the celebrated CEO of HCL Technologies, recounting in his book Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down.

Being a People-First company is adopting the posture of a servant leader, as described by Robert K. Greenleaf in his book Servant Leadership.

If you want staff to give excellent service to customers, then as a leader, you need to give excellent service to the staff.

Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Boeing and Ford, turned over those two American icon companies by having People First in the first place of his principles.

When the company is successful, there could be a problem with that approach. What really matters to the employee? What is really an excellent service?

Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, explains in her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, that most companies have it all wrong when it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams. The question is not about the perks or the bonus plans, the question is more about high performance and profitability.

What happens with success is that companies tend to become self-centered. It is all about them, and everything else revolves around them. They become arrogant and complacent.

This is why a Copernican revolution is needed to shift from a self-centered approach to a customer-centered approach as Steve Denning brilliantly explains in his book The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done.

It is not about being Customer-First in place of being People-First. It is about changing the perspective and restoring the position of the customer at the center of the preoccupation of all the people in the company.

It is not Customer-First, It is Customer-Centered.

Photo by Jongsun Lee