Are You Self-Obsessed Or Customer-Obsessed?

By Jodie Cook

You can tell within seconds if a person or business is obsessed with itself or obsessed with its customers. To the trained eye, the signs are obvious and only one type will succeed in the long run. How can you tell, and which are you?

The young asian businesswoman standing indoor


At the extreme, the self-obsessed business owner makes everything about them. They’re the star of the show and their success is a reflection of their value to society. They start by looking at themselves, their company and their bottom line. They decide which products they can make and which services are the most profitable.

Websites describe “we” and “us” without mentioning “you”. Products are mismatched to audiences; advertising doesn’t resonate and it’s a brand only a mother could love.

Any announcement reads like an Oscar-winner’s speech, any update comes with an opinion. It’s not about how their customers want something; it’s about how the business wants to deliver it. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s about what I put into it. It’s selling the what without mentioning the why. It’s letting the ego lead and leaving the empathy trailing.

It’s one way to run a business.

But customers don’t want to know about your glowing accolades, they want to know how you will meet their needs. They don’t want to hear about your research trip, they want to be welcomed in and made to feel special. They don’t want to buy one-size fits all, so stop trying to sell it.

Even the most well-regarded names aren’t talking about themselves non-stop. They’re humble rather than braggers. They serve to serve, not to show-off.

If you see John Smith through John Smith’s eyes, you’ll sell John Smith what John Smith buys. The best businesses are obsessed with their customers.

Portrait of cheerful businesswoman smiling at the meeting


Customer-obsessed brands quiz their customers non-stop. How can I help? What are you struggling with? What do you think? What do you need? How can we understand every expectation so we can exceed it beyond belief?

They look at data. They listen to feedback. They look for patterns and they predict the future. They keep asking questions until the problem is understood and the answer is clear. It informs new products. It sparks new ideas. They know what their customers want and they speak on their level.

Their customer is valued, not seen as a nuisance. They have them in mind throughout every decision and they act in their best interests. They know them better than they know themselves because they have studied them like a scientist meticulously poring over a lab report.

Meetings and phone calls are looked forward to and promises are kept. If a customer leaves, there’s a full post-mortem. They focus on client retention over acquisition because they know one will take care of the other. It’s a vision shared by every member of the team, not confined to customer services. A group responsibility. Nothing is too much trouble. It’s always a yes. Above and beyond is second nature. They are there to serve and it’s repaid in volumes.

“That’ll do” is not in the vocabulary of a customer-focused business. The focus is quality over quantity and testing is relentless before a launch. They’ll under-promise and overdeliver instead of squeezing someone in to fit a target.

If it doesn’t make you proud, don’t serve it to the crowd.

Are you self-obsessed or customer-obsessed? Is your to-do list full of things for you or things for them? Are you constantly thinking of their needs and how you can meet them, or is everything about you? There’s only one way to run a great business.

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