The Little Known Disadvantages of a Customer-first Strategy


The business world has significantly shifted in recent years, and I, for one, am excited to see so many companies adopting a customer-first strategy.

However, like any strategy, a customer-first approach has pros and cons. Therefore I thought it would be helpful to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of a customer-first plan.


Advantages of a Customer-First Strategy

If you regularly read my posts, you will know that I’m passionate about companies adopting and improving their customer-first strategies. There is so much going for it, as I will explain below.

1. Improved Customer Satisfaction

One of the primary advantages of a customer-first strategy is that it leads to improved customer satisfaction. By placing the needs and desires of the customer at the centre of all business decisions, companies can create products and services that better meet their customers’ needs. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth advertising.

As an example of this, think about Amazon, which is well known for its customer-centric approach. They offer a wide range of products, fast and reliable delivery, and excellent customer service. As a result, they have a loyal customer base and a strong brand reputation.

2. Increased Sales

Another advantage of a customer-first strategy is that it can increase sales. When satisfied with a company’s products or services, customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend the company to others.

This then leads to increased revenue and profitability for the company. Research clearly shows that businesses that excel in customer experience grow more than three times faster than those that don’t.

A good example of excellence is Apple. They focus on creating products that are easy to use and meet the needs of their customers. As a result, they have a loyal customer base and have been able to increase sales consistently over time.

3. Improved Brand Reputation

A customer-first strategy can also lead to improved brand image. When a company consistently prioritizes the needs of its customers, it develops the reputation of a customer-focused organization. This can attract new customers, retain existing ones, and draw top talent.

Zappos is a good example of a company that has built its brand around customer service. They offer free shipping and returns, a 365-day return policy, and a dedicated customer service team available 24/7. As a result, they have a strong brand reputation and are known for putting their customers first. Zappos built a loyal customer base and a successful business by prioritising customer satisfaction, which resulted in it being acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.

4. Better Decision-Making

By placing the customer at the centre of all business decisions, a customer-first strategy can lead to better decision-making. When companies are focused on meeting the needs of their customers, they are more likely to make decisions that align with their customers’ needs and desires. This can lead to better products, more efficient processes, and increased profitability.

Procter & Gamble is well known for focusing on consumer insights. They conduct extensive research to understand the needs and desires of their customers and then use this information to make better business decisions. This has helped them create successful products and stay ahead of their competitors in numerous categories.

[bctt tweet=”When companies are focused on meeting the needs of their customers, they are more likely to make decisions that align with their customers’ needs and desires. #CMO #Marketing #BrandBuilding” username=””]


Disadvantages of a Customer-First Strategy

Many companies have still not taken the step of adopting a customer-first strategy, and this may be due to the fact that there are also several downsides to doing this. Here are just a few to highlight the importance of carefully evaluating whether or not the strategy is right for your business.

1. Increased Costs

One of the primary disadvantages of a customer-first strategy is that it can lead to increased costs. When companies prioritize the needs of their customers, they may need to invest more in product development, customer service, and other areas.

This can increase the overall cost of doing business, impacting profitability. However, if this investment is necessary, it suggests that the company has been limiting its potential by not having made such investments in the past.

Southwest Airlines is a company that has prioritized customer service, which has led to increased costs. They offer free checked bags, no change fees, and a generous frequent flyer program.

While this has helped them build customer loyalty, it has also increased their costs and impacted their profitability, at least for now. However, they are also investing in new routes and aircraft that will no doubt continue to benefit their customer reputation and loyalty.

2. Short-Term Focus

Another disadvantage of a customer-first strategy is that it can lead to a short-term focus. When companies are focused on meeting the immediate needs of their customers, they may neglect long-term strategic planning. This can result in missed opportunities and decreased competitiveness over time.

For this reason, I always encourage my clients to create plausible future scenarios, so they can quickly react to the risks and opportunities that present themselves.

Kodak is a company that focused on meeting the immediate needs of its customers but neglected long-term strategic planning. As a result, they failed to adapt to the rise of digital photography and ultimately went bankrupt.

3. Difficulty in Measuring Success

A customer-first strategy can be challenging to measure. While customer satisfaction and loyalty are important metrics, they can be difficult to quantify. This can make it hard to determine the strategy’s overall success and identify improvement areas.

I suggest using the C3Centricity Evaluator™ Tool as one of the ways to regularly assess how customer-centric you are.

Tesla is a company with a strong focus on customer satisfaction, but they have been challenged to measure the success of its customer-first strategy.

While they have had a loyal customer base and positive word-of-mouth advertising, it can be difficult to quantify their approach’s impact on their overall business success, especially in the past year or so.

4. Difficulty in Balancing Customer Needs with Business Needs

Finally, a customer-first strategy can be demanding to implement in practice. While it is crucial to prioritize the needs of the customer, it is also essential to balance those needs with the needs of the business.

This can require trade-offs and difficult decisions, which can be tough to navigate.

McDonald’s is a company that has struggled to balance the needs of its customers with the requirements of its business. They have faced criticism for their unhealthy menu options but must maintain profitability. As a result, they have had to make difficult decisions and trade-offs to address these competing priorities.


Further Examples of Customer-first Strategy Successes

Despite the above challenges, many companies have succeeded in implementing a customer-first strategy:

  • Salesforce has made customer success a top priority. They have developed a range of products and services designed to help their customers succeed and have a dedicated team of success managers who work closely with customers to ensure their needs are met.
  • Airbnb has built its business around the needs of its customers. They offer a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets and strongly focus on customer service. This has helped them build a loyal customer base and a strong brand reputation.
  • T-Mobile is a telecom company that disrupted the industry by putting the needs of its customers first. The company offers unlimited data plans, free international roaming, and no contracts. They also offer a dedicated team of representatives who are available to assist with any issues or concerns. By prioritizing customer satisfaction, T-Mobile has gained market share and competed with larger, established players in the industry.
  • Peloton is a fitness company that disrupted the industry by putting the needs of its customers first. The company offers a range of connected fitness equipment and content designed to provide a personalized workout experience. They also strongly focus on customer engagement, using social media and community events to build a loyal following. Peloton has built a successful business with a market cap of over $20 billion by prioritising customer satisfaction.
  • Glossier is a D2C beauty brand that has gained a cult following by strongly emphasising customer feedback and engagement. The company actively involves its customers in product development, seeking their input and incorporating their feedback into new product launches. This customer-centric approach has allowed Glossier to create products that truly resonate with its target audience and fostered a sense of community and brand loyalty.

Adopting a customer-first strategy has profoundly impacted the businesses of each of these examples. By prioritizing customer feedback, personalization, and convenience, these companies have been able to build loyal customer bases, drive user adoption, and gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

Ultimately, the success of a customer-first strategy depends upon a range of factors, including the industry, the competitive landscape, and the specific needs and preferences of the customer. Therefore, each organisation must carefully plan what and how to change to better meet their customers’ needs.


Recommendations for Companies Considering a Customer-First Strategy

As you can now see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to adopting a customer-first strategy. Therefore, companies must only adopt the strategy when they have fully evaluated its appropriateness for their business.

So how do you decide? Here are five actions that will help you assess the benefits to your organization of adopting a customer-first strategy:

1. Conduct a Customer Needs Assessment

Before implementing a customer-first strategy, companies must thoroughly assess their customers’ needs and desires. This can help ensure that their plan is aligned with customer’s needs and will identify areas for improvement.

2. Develop Clear Metrics for Measuring Success

To ensure that a customer-first strategy is successful, it is essential to develop clear metrics for measuring success. This again also has the benefit of helping to identify areas for improvement and ensure that the strategy achieves its desired outcomes. (Don’t forget the C3Centricity Evaluator™ Tool, which is one of the best ways to assess how customer-centric you are.)

3. Invest in Training and Development

Companies must invest in training and development to ensure employees can implement a customer-first strategy effectively. This can help guarantee that employees have the skills and knowledge needed to prioritize the needs of the customer while also balancing the needs of the business.

4. Collaborate Across Departments

This is the most important action as far as I am concerned. Implementing a customer-first strategy requires collaboration across all departments, not just marketing, product development, and customer service.

By fostering collaboration and communication across the whole company, businesses can ensure that all teams are aligned with the overall strategy and working towards this common goal.

5. Maintain a Long-Term Focus

While prioritising the customer’s immediate needs is crucial, maintaining a long-term focus is also essential. This will ensure that the company remains competitive in the long term and will be able to adapt to changing market conditions.


Concluding the Disadvantages of a Customer-first Strategy

In conclusion, let me remind you that a customer-first strategy can provide significant benefits to companies, including improved customer satisfaction, increased sales, and an improved brand reputation. However, there are also a few disadvantages of a customer-first strategy, including increased costs and a shorter-term focus.

Companies can increase their chances of success by investing in customer research, developing clear metrics for measuring success, fostering collaboration and communication across departments, and maintaining a long-term focus.

By doing all of this, companies can successfully prioritize their customer’s needs while simultaneously achieving their business goals.

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? Then start by assessing where you are today before making any changes. Check out our website for more tips and tools. And take our free assessment: Upon completion, you will receive a detailed report showing you what to do to improve and prioritise your actions. And if you need more support, then, of course, I am here to help. Book a discovery call today.

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