March 4, 2021

Being Customer Focused vs. Customer Driven

The difference between being customer-driven and customer-focused isn’t a matter of degree; it’s a matter of mindset. Obviously, if you’re not focused on what your customers need, then you won’t stay in business very long. However, it’s one thing to think about your customers, but it’s another thing to be in a relationship with them. I can think about somebody all day long, but they may not know that I exist. Being customer-focused doesn’t necessarily help me serve them better. It’s necessary, but it’s not always going to be enough.Being customer-driven means that you have the mindset that your customers are part of your process.They are the ones that know their own lives, and they know better than anyone what you are going to mean to them. They’re sitting right there with you at the board room table as you make decisions about how you will serve them. You go beyond just thinking about them to actually engaging with them in a useful and productive relationship.But don’t make the mistake of confusing customer-driven with customer-led. Recall Henry Ford’s comment that if he asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said, “a faster horse.” Just because you are in a direct dialogue and relationship with your customers doesn’t mean they tell you what to do. You only want to ask someone something at which they’re experts. They’re not experts at what you do; they’re experts at who they are. It’s that insight into who they are and what their lives are all about that is invaluable at the strategic planning stage.This means that, like any functioning relationship, you need to have a back-and-forth dialogue. Being customer-driven means that you have the structures and the organizational plan that will allow you to find your customers, engage with them when it counts, and aggregate their perspectives into something actionable.There are many ways to accomplish this. With the technology available to us today, there is no excuse not to have your finger on the pulse of what your customers are thinking. More importantly, there’s no excuse for not having them right there with you as you design for them.Don’t make the mistake, however, of substituting data for insight. Looking only at customer behavioural data is being customer-focused but not customer-driven. That kind of data can tell you what people are doing, but it won’t tell you why they do it. You need to speak directly with them, at scale, in order to help them be able to drive your business.For more information on how you can go beyond being customer-focused to customer-driven, feel free to reach out to Mark Szabo, VP Insights & Engagement (