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6 Experts on Which Companies are Customer Obsessed

Written by Alida

Published June 12, 2014

Many companies today claim that they are "customer obsessed." But if we really think about it, most of these companies are not customer centric yet. Customer obsession means constantly listening to customers, and then continuously testing, enhancing, and personalizing the customer experience.

For the most part, companies are marketing obsessed, not customer obsessed.

And yet, tuning in to your customers has never been more important. Thanks to various technologies, your customers have more information and more options than ever.

To flesh out the notion of customer obsession, it helps to examine companies that embody this trait in action. For that, we turned to six respected business and marketing experts. We asked these experts the following question:

In your opinion, which one or two companies are doing a great job of demonstrating what it means to be "customer obsessed" and what do they do differently from others?

As you can see below, from startups like Uber to established companies like Jetblue, some companies already do a great job of serving their customers and thus provide good examples for others to emulate.

Ann Handley (@annhandley, @marketingprofs) Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

Jet Blue consistently delights me, in part because it empowers its customer-facing folks to deliver great service. I wrote about a recent experience with Jet Blue here, when gates agents turned a gate full of grumpy passengers at O'Hare into smiling, trivia-playing passengers.

A few weeks after that experience, I was on a Jet Blue flight from Boston (where I live) headed to LA, and I realized I forget my headphones at home. I was already seated on the plane, and I'd neglected to grab a pair out of the bin Jet Blue keeps at the gate, too.

I asked the flight attendant if I'd have an opportunity to buy a set on board. The next thing I knew, she was slipping me a pair behind her back. She handed them over surreptitiously, as if was some kind of contraband, or like I was getting something more precious than a $2 pair of ear buds! Which only made me feel like I was getting special treatment of some kind.

Jet Blue isn't perfect. But I do think it is a cut well above most airlines, in its efforts to make the customers feel valued.

CLICK TO TWEET: Jet Blue "empowers its customer-facing folks to deliver great service" - @annhandley.

Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang)
Founder, Crowd Companies

The highest form of customer obsession is from Uber, ironically. By raising prices based on demand from customers (called "surge pricing"), Uber nearly guarantees drivers will be available in order to achieve a higher payout. On the other hand, taxi supply remains the same regardless of whether it's a quiet Sunday morning or its New Year's Eve.

Secondly, customer obsession goes both ways: Uber drivers can rate and rank passengers, which in turn may dissuade drivers from picking up low-rated customers. This customer obsession flips the model as we think of it, so Uber only has the best, well behaved, paying customers.

Uber's demand-based pricing offers consistent customer experience, and its two-way ratings ensure quality customers. Now that's a new way to think of customer obsession.

CLICK TO TWEET: A new approach to #customer obsession: @Uber offers consistent experience and attracts high quality customers - @jowyang.

Glen Gilmore (@GlenGilmore)
Principal, Gilmore Business Network

Zappos and Ben & Jerry's are two great examples of companies that go gaga over their customers. They show it all the time and it rings true.

Being truly "customer centric" translates into excelling at creating a positive customer experience at every customer touch point and going the distance with customer service on the follow-up. To get this right requires a corporate culture that places the customer first and empowers employees to achieve this.

I put the question directly to both Zappos and Ben & Jerry's, via Twitter, asking them what made their customer service so good. They were both pretty quick to respond, by tweeting back.

By the very act of responding to my question posed via Twitter, they showed that they are different from most companies. They are different because not only do they have a social media presence, they are actually "social."

Too many companies don't understand that being on social media without actually being social can have a negative effect when customers, or would-be customers, discover that the brand they just mentioned isn't listening at all or, even worse, is simply choosing to ignore their community. Consumers take note of which brands are really being social in the social space, because it speaks volumes about their relationship with their customers.

Not only do Zappos and Ben & Jerry's listen to their customers in the social space, they look for opportunities to celebrate and encourage added exchanges, converting customers into brand advocates in the process.

CLICK TO TWEET: Customer-obsessed brands @Zappos and @benandjerrys listen and look for opportunities to be #social - @GlenGilmore

Ted Rubin (@tedrubin)
Acting CMO, Brand Innovators

Return on Relationship is more important now than ever. Brands or companies that use social successfully reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

Two of the companies that I see as most "customer obsessed" are JetBlue (@JetBlue) and Duane Reade (@DuaneReade) because they get engagement and interaction and how it scales. For me it is very simple: if you want to stand out then do what most others are not doing, actually be social when using social media.

CLICK TO TWEET: #Customer-obsessed companies @JetBlue & @DuaneReade "get engagement and interaction and how it scales" - @TedRubin #RonR

Peter Harris (@peteraharris)
Managing Director (APAC), Alida

Telstra have been undergoing a major transformation as Australia's largest telco. In 2009, the company made a great decision in appointing David Thodey as CEO. Thodey announced a strategy of market differentiation and a renewed focus on customer service and putting customers at the centre of everything they do.

Many CEOs say they focus on the customer, but in my experience, few companies see this through. Maybe it is because David came from a Customer/Sales and Marketing background or that he is the first to admit Telstra doesn't always get everything right but the company is really demonstrating consistent customer obsession, using its insight community to obtain wide ranging feedback from customers on all product and business lines.

True customer obsession comes from the top. Telstra demonstrates this and it has performed an amazing turnaround over the past 5 years. Their share price is better for it.

CLICK TO TWEET: #Customer obsession starts from the top: @PeterAHarris on how @Telstra tunes in to customers to drive business decisions.

Tyler Douglas (@tylerdouglas)
Former Chief Marketing Officer, Alida

I love to read, and I think Amazon is doing a great job of showing what it means to be customer obsessed. I love the experience of finding and downloading what I want across my different devices. I love the speed, the selection and the convenience. Amazon has thought about the customer's end-to-end experience.

That's what being a customer-obsessed company is really all about: giving the customer a seat at the table, putting them in the center of everything you do, and then delivering a seamless experience.