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IMA Executive News & Views Blog

Are You Sabotaging Your Customers?

by Andrea Belk Olsen, Pragmadik

IMEC is an IMA Member

It’s not about you. Truly, no matter what business you are in, it’s not about you.

Too many organizations unintentionally support internal cultures that focus on the company, not the customer.

For example, have you ever heard your team being negative about customers, saying that they “don’t get it”? Or about a competitor, stating they are “less than” your organization? What both of these things have in common is that they aren’t focused on understanding and serving the customer. If your customer “doesn’t get it”, that’s on you. If your competition is “less than”, is that your perspective or your customers?

This self-sabotage happens all the time. Yet it’s not a simple culture or attitude issue, but a customer centricity issue. When organizations focus too internally, the unintended consequence is customer sabotage. The downstream effect is reduced revenues, decreased customer loyalty, and a damaged brand reputation. But what do we mean by customer sabotage?

Customer sabotage is the principle of harming and/or hampering the ability of a customer to do business with you. This is bred primarily though the support of rigid, internally-focused behaviors and the attitude/approach the organization has towards customers. This manifests in a variety of ways:

  1. Through Customer Service – Customer service should be a role that each and every individual in an organization plays. Kicking customer service to the role of an individual department minimizes it’s importance, and put the customer in a “less than” position. If it’s considered a hassle to deal with customers in any area of the organization, you’re conducting customer sabotage.
  2. Through Customer Engagement – Engagement isn’t simply relegated to the automated promotions and communications spit out by the marketing department. Customer Engagement encompasses taking an individual customer from beginning to end of their need or issue. It is being responsive. It is being proactive. If you are “mailing in” customer engagement or simply think it’s a sales job, you’re conducting customer sabotage.
  3. With Customer Needs – Customers don’t need your product or service. Your product or service is really only a part of your customer’s true needs. For example, if you are an architect, it’s not enough to create drawings for a building of a certain size and shape. It’s about knowing what the building is for, how it’s being used, what jobs people have to conduct in it, accessibility requirements, etc. In short, you’re not meeting the customer needs by delivering a drawing, but by solving their bigger, operational challenges that go beyond a blueprint.

Forget about trying to find the next big thing or innovation that’s going to take your company to the next level. That’s a moon-shot. What really differentiates organizations and builds true customer loyalty is focusing on and truly serving the needs of your customers. Listening to them and understanding their bigger picture. Providing proactive insights and unexpected levels of service. While not as sexy as the next shiny object, this is the basis of good business. If your organization wants to continue to conduct customer sabotage, you may not have many customers to complain about any more.


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