You think your company is customer-centric company, but it's probably not.

Many people mistake customer-centricity for their responsiveness to customer needs. They aim to go above and beyond to provide delightful service and support.

But, as Matt Dixon teaches us in his book, The Effortless Experience:

Delighting customers in the service channel doesn't pay. Customers whose expectations are exceeded are only marginally more loyal than those whose expectations were simply met.

If it's not service, then what is it that makes a company customer-centric?

Consider this portion of Jeff Bezos's 2013 letter to Amazon shareholders:

One advantage – perhaps a somewhat subtle one – of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience – importantly – even in those areas where we are already the leader.

As consumers, we have been conditioned to expect the opposite:

  • Our cable bill rises inexplicably
  • The SaaS product we use has built-in annual price increases
  • The bag of chips we buy from the grocery has more air and fewer chips for the same price ("skimpflation")

But Amazon does precisely the opposite. They proactively "add features and benefits" to their offerings before customers ask for them.

This creates a virtuous, viral growth loop: Amazon impresses customers with additional, unexpected value. Customers spread the word, attracting more customers. Existing customers come back again and again.

As a business model, SaaS is inherently customer-centric.

It liberated companies from massive capital investments required to deploy and operate business automation software.

It forced simpler UX and configuration over customization and heavy professional services.

It swapped ownership for a pay-as-you-go leasing model.

With the core benefits of the technology and business model in place, does this mean we shouldn't have sales, customer success, and support teams?

Absolutely not.

However, they are the icing, not the cake. They shouldn't be a bandaid for an incomplete, half-baked product. The more value the vendor delivers through the product, the better off its customer and its business will be.

A customer-centric company obsesses over delivering product innovations in increasingly efficient ways. At a lower cost to the business over time.

Then it decides how to leverage its profits to increase customer value by reducing prices (not common in SaaS) or increasing investment in new innovations.

If we are to delight customers, we will do so by tirelessly and consistently making our products unexpectedly better and simpler to own and manage.

By this definition, is your company customer-centric? Or are they faking it?