Culture: Adaptability – Customer Focus

by Ron Potter

Customer focus is an interesting topic to me.  Henry Ford is quoted as saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  He was inventing the car.  People didn’t know they needed a car.

Entirely new Product or Service

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”  Thomas Watson, president of IBM.  This was the quote from Tom Watson Sr.  It was Tom Watson Jr. that turned the punch card company toward computers of the future.

I believe Customer Focus must be driven by the Mission quadrant.  If our mission is to create something the world has never see or doesn’t know they need yet, then Customer Focus must be very selective.

I’m involved with a wonderful team attempting to create something that doesn’t exist yet.  We’re trying to take years of consulting experience from myself and a couple of other consultants and boil down the essence of building teams, being great leaders and developing great cultures into an app.  We’ve titled it GPS4Leaders.  Even though we have a great concept on how the app will work, our goal right now is to put the app in the hands of customers and let them tell us how it should look, feel and react to their use.  We’re trying to listen to the customer.

Existing Product or Service


  • once the car has deeply penetrated society
  • everyone is working with computers daily (sometimes it even resides on your wrist)
  • giving you access to your Team, Leadership, and Culture progress instantly on whatever device is available at the moment

how should you then listen to your customer?

Listen to the customer from the companies position, not just your job

I recently received notice from my insurance company that my policy would be discontinued if I didn’t submit a payment immediately.  However, that particular policy is set up for automatic withdrawal, and it is the insurance company that initiates payment.  I called the company, brought the payments up to date and then asked, “Why didn’t you (the insurance company) make the automatic withdrawal?”  The answer was “I don’t know, but I’ll have someone contact you.”  I was never contacted!  The person I was talking with did their job of receiving payment and didn’t care if it happened again or not.

Listen before the customer asks

In another example, I received a regular shipment, but the shipment was short two critical pieces.  After waiting a week I called the company.  The person I talked with immediately corrected the problem and sent me the missing parts.  Did that person listen to the customer?  Sort of!

In correcting the improper shipment, the person said: “Yes, we had several shipments with this same issue, I’ll correct that for you.”

Wait a minute!  You knew you had this problem.  If fact you have several examples of it, and yet you didn’t correct my issue until I called you to see why there was a problem!

Companies that are good at listening to their customers make corrections before the customer calls them.

Listening may be unique, but it requires focus

Each company may have unique issues around listening to its customers.  An emergency room will have very different issues from a vitamin company.  A parts supply company will have different issues than a new car dealership.  You will likely need to customize your listening skills to your particular situation.  Just make sure this is a leadership issue, it’s everybody’s job; it is not the domain of a customer service department!


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Michal September 22, 2019 - 1:09 pm

Great quote at the end. Solving problems after customer reports them might be too late especially if high-quality customer service is a priority.

Ron Potter September 24, 2019 - 9:13 pm

Thanks Michal. Glad I struck a note with you.


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