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Are you a Customer Advocate … or Activist … or Evangelist?

I have often written about how important it is for customer advocates to “enjoy the journey” of helping their companies become more customer focused. That is because the work is never really done. You are never totally "customer-focused." You can only hope to be keeping up with the changes in the marketplace as quickly as or quicker than your competition.

This need to keep ourselves motivated as customer advocates was recently reinforced to me while talking to a group of folks. They were discouraged that their efforts had to be constantly reinforced, redoubled, and supported. They were really griping. It reminded me of what the legendary business guru, Zig Ziglar, once said “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Think about this. If we stopped bathing, we could pick up anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of productive time each day. Think of what you get done with that extra time? Then think about how you might feel, or worse yet, smell after a couple of days? This is a great analogy for how we think about “customer focus” in our companies. If we stopped trying to make our companies more customer focused, we might pick up some more time in the short run, but the long term impacts would be really stinky. As a matter of fact, companies can’t survive for very long without being customer focused at some level and that’s why the companies that are the best at being customer focused outperform their competitors.   

This got me thinking that the name “Customer Advocate” is perhaps a little too tame for what we really need to become. Perhaps we should call ourselves “Activists.” This conjures up visions of those who take to the street in protest, holding up signs, doing sit-ins until our companies “get it” and improve their customer focus. Or maybe, we should consider ourselves “Evangelists.” You know, on a crusade to change the minds of people and spread the good news to all who will listen.

I offer these thoughts only slightly in jest. The reality is that if you are going to make your companies more customer focused, you will have to be part advocate, part activist, and part evangelist. You must never relent or let your organization become complacent, or think for a minute that your company can succeed or thrive while devaluing the customer. You have to tell the story to everyone in the company, in all departments and at all levels. Many will not “get it” and some others will even work against you. You have to be unreasonable and hard-nosed but also be a counselor and psychologist.

Returning to Mr. Ziglar, in order for us to fulfill our mission as customer advocates, we really do need to insist on a new standards for customer-focused hygiene in our companies by making it not something extra to do, but by making it part of our everyday routine.

Originally posted in Customer Connection March 18, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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