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Why Customer Obsession Is More Than A Buzzword

Toniann Mendelzon, Digital Marketing Strategist


To explain what customer obsession is, we can start by explaining what it is not. Customer obsession is not an unwavering dedication to the thinking that “the customer is always right.” It is not a new trend or fad that has just begun to make its rounds on Twitter, in marketing blogs, and in the huddle rooms of marketing teams.

Rather, customer obsession is the outside-in business approach that utilizes data-driven insights to increase the lifetime value of customers by continuously providing them with quality and meaningful experiences.

This idea is not new; in fact, Forrester has been philosophizing on customer obsession since the dawn of the Age of the Customer in 2011. Since then, other industry thought leaders like Gartner and Salesforce have echoed the sentiment of urgency behind the transition from offering-focused to customer-centric.

Forrester Chief Research Officer, Cliff Condon, shared back in 2014 the importance of becoming customer obsessed when he stated, “in today’s marketplace, customer-obsession is your only competitive advantage.” He credited this shift to the abundance of information customers now have at their fingertips.

This wealth of knowledge and accessibility that has become possible with each advancement of technology has shifted the power of the sale into the customers’ hands. As a result, companies who wish to thrive in today’s digital marketplace must become customer-obsessed in all facets of the business.

How can customer obsession be achieved?


Live and breathe customer data.
Successfully building healthy, long-term relationships with customers starts with data-driven insight into who they are, where they are, how they interact with brands they like, and the underlying motivations that drive them.

Using a 360° approach to understanding the customer means defining personas, mapping customer journeys, and listening to the voice of the customer. Investing in these strategic insights is the first step into becoming a customer-obsessed organization and provides a foundation for every decision that you’ll make.

Turn inside-out outside-in.
Businesses that are still product or offering-centric are those which search for customers to fit the products and services they provide only after they’ve already been created. Customer-obsessed businesses are those who know every fiber of their customers first (from using the steps above), and then create products and services to best fit their audience’s needs.

Offering-centric businesses often focus on customer acquisition and experiment with methods to make acquisition faster, cheaper, and more effective. Customer-obsessed businesses focus more on customer retention, increasing satisfaction and loyalty, and ultimately increasing customer lifetime value.

As Gartner explained in a recent report about customer-centricity, offering-centric businesses “act reactively when customers reach out to [the] company with needs or pain points,” whereas customer-obsessed organizations “act proactively to prevent customers from experiencing pain points or gaps in their journey.”

Adopting a customer-obsessed approach is a vital step toward achieving marketing maturity. Without developing the right strategy, processes, and data insights to adequately serve target audiences, companies are not only falling behind their competitors, but are also creating campaign inefficiencies that ultimately decrease marketing ROI.

Becoming customer-obsessed means allowing customer data, desires, needs, and pain points dominate the minds of all who touch the customer experience. As customers become more empowered with endless knowledge at their disposal, so should the brands that serve them.

TA-Mendelzon

About the author: Toniann Mendelzon

Toniann Andries Mendelzon is a Digital Marketing Strategist at R2i who moonlights as both a grad student of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and a butler to her dog. She is passionate about storytelling, content creation, and traveling the globe. When she’s not writing about digital marketing or branding trends, she can usually be found blogging about horseracing or anecdotal life experiences. She believes in working smarter, not harder, and hopes to one day write a novel or two.

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