Customer obsession is the only winning strategy. Pretending to be customer obsessed is easy when the times are good. It’s easy to lose track of customer obsession when there’s plenty of funding, when you have decades-long network effects, or when you operate a monopoly. A few examples:
- Google selling Google Domains to Squarespace with zero customer notice (not even letting customers know directly until weeks after)
- Twitter drastically changing API access, rate-limiting users, and
- SaaS companies with significant downtime
- Reddit drastically changing API access, Reddit moderators turning communities private
Being customer obsessed is hard. It can mean decisions that put customers before short-term shareholders (investors, employees, and yourself).
Tough customer obsession decisions:
- Prioritize long-term value over short-term profit
- Maintain backward compatibility
- No dark patterns
- The customer is always right
- No surprises
- Customer NPS over inward-facing KPIs (e.g., revenue)
- Making customers whole after mistakes (even perceived mistakes)
Maybe the toughest prerequisite for companies is actually understanding who is actually the customer. Google and Meta must ultimately sell to big advertisers. Spotify must reconcile with record labels. You can’t optimize for the customer without knowing who you ultimately serve.