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The Customer-centric Approach: Are Your Customers Persona Non Grata?

Published: May 19, 2014 | By: Annette Franz

Have you thought about this question: “In your company, are customers persona non grata?”

Ok, a little Latin refresher to start off. What does “persona non grata” mean?

According to Wikipedia, it means an unwelcome person. I like the definition from, which defines it as: A person who is rejected by those whose acceptance of him or her is required in a situation.

Can you see how this relates to customers?

Why are we in business? For our customers, right? Their acceptance is required in this situation, no? And yet, we still see some dismal statistics about how many companies don’t focus on the customer experience or think they focus on the customer experience but really don’t:

  • $83 billion is estimated to be lost by U.S. businesses every year due to poor customer service. (Source: Genesys)
  • Businesses lose $289 each year for every customer who leaves due to poor service. (Source: Genesys)
  • 80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, but only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these companies. (Source: The New Yorker)
  • 66% of consumers switched companies in at least one of ten industries due to poor service in the past year. 82% of consumers felt their service provider could have done something to prevent switching. 55% say they’d have stayed if the company had proactively contacted them, and 51% would have stayed had the company simply recognized them and rewarded them for their business. (Source: Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research, 2013)

Amazon is really a great example of a customer-focused, customer-centric company. Actually, the better phrase, their phrase, is “obsessed over customers.” Remember, Jeff Bezos is the one who regularly has an empty chair in meetings to represent the customer, i.e., “the most important person in the room.”

So, I thought I’d tip my hat to Jeff Foxworthy and say, your customers might be considered persona non grata in your company if you…

  • focus more on acquisition than on retention
  • share nothing but sales metrics in your company meetings
  • sell things you shouldn’t sell, just to make your numbers
  • focus solely on making your numbers
  • talk about nothing but sales metrics in your executive meetings
  • don’t listen to your customers
  • don’t make decisions based on what’s best for your customers
  • don’t include some reference to customers in the job descriptions for your customer-facing positions
  • listen to customers but don’t act on the feedback (only listen to check a box)
  • don’t train employees on what it means to deliver a great customer experience
  • don’t teach employees how to deliver a great customer experience
  • don’t create a clear line of sight for employees to the customer so that they understand their roles in, or contributions to, delivering a great customer experience
  • don’t communicate your brand promise to employees
  • don’t explain your vision or purpose to your employees
  • don’t understand your customers or their needs
  • listen to customers but only focus on the metrics, not on improving the experience
  • develop products without understanding customer needs
  • are focused on shareholder value
  • don’t make the employee experience a priority
  • don’t hire the right people
  • have a siloed organization

In companies where customers are persona non grata, in the list of company priorities, it seems the customer falls somewhere low, after sales, metrics, products, and a variety of other things. The customer is an afterthought. An outcome.

No. The customer is not an outcome. The customer is an input. The customer is your reason for being. The customer cannot be persona non grata… the customer must be persona grata. At all times. In all meetings. In all conversations. In all decisions. And that is the true customer-centric approach, plain and simple.

Where is the customer in your organization?

I’ll leave you with this quote from the author of the classic “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek: “Focus on the vision and the numbers will thrive. Focus on the numbers and the vision will struggle (and so will the numbers).” Another way to think of that same concept: “Focus on the customer and the numbers will thrive. Focus on the numbers and the customer will struggle (and so will the numbers).”

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