The Customer is the Boss

Do companies know who their customers are? Do they know who their customers are not?

In her recent book entitled The Definitive Drucker, the author Elizabeth Edersheim says that Peter Drucker, the grandfather of marketing, believed that beyond 1990 business as a whole could no longer rely on the old assumptions.

He thought there were many reasons for this. But foremost in his mind was that companies no longer just produce goods and services customers buy. Organizations now actually report to the customer as the boss. This is true whether companies understand it or not.

Furthermore, Peter Drucker wonders why CEOs and boards of directors have allowed their focus to divert from the customer to the shareholder.


Let’s get down to every day reality for a few seconds.

You know how it is when you have a product question or you have decided to make a purchase. When the buying moment happens, it’s as if the business world were conspiring against keeping you from spending your money. That is particularly true if you have a question that the web site either does not answer or demands excessive time on your part to research.

Your natural course of action to cut through the web site step and get the answers to your questions is to call a sales person. So you go to the manufacturer’s web site for the contact information. But you search in vain for the sales phone number. In many instances, you will never find the contact address or phone number because it isn’t there. If it does exist on the web site, it is often hidden under layers of clicks hoping  you will abandon the phone contact idea and search the web site more thoroughly.

I truly believe that many companies today make it quite clear they DO NOT WANT TO TALK TO YOU. After all, you are just an over-demanding customer the company serves reluctantly.

Then you try to beat the system by trying to call customer service instead of the sales area. The reasoning is that you are not a customer yet, but as a customer, you must wield some clout with the company.

That’s a no-go because you do not have the product serial number allowing you access to a live person. Or they want you to pay a service fee for product support first before they will talk with you.

At that point, you are ready to punch “O” on the phone with your clenched fist just to get out of the number-punching merry-go-round trap.

Great! You found a company with a live person to route your call by punching “0” on your phone pad! But wait, when you call, you have to ask the sales or customer support person to repeat every answer and question three times to understand it! It’s not a bad connection; it’s someone on the other side of the world who speaks a form of English you are not familiar with. And so the saga continues.

Why are companies so inept at customer service? Don’t they get it? Will they stay in business or prosper for long in a society that demands service above all?

In your view, do Companies really believe the customer is the boss?  

Posted on August 15, 2007 and filed under Customer Service.