Customer centricity is not about what the customer wants!

By Stephanie Bradshaw

“The customer is always right”… “The customer doesn’t know what they want”…Customer Service…Customer Centricity. For many years trying to put yourself in the customer’s shoes has been at the forefront of business theory. So, where are we currently on this journey?

The Beginning

When I was a little girl interested in the advertising world (I know… sad really), I used to hear “The customer is always right” all the time. The twentieth century Customer Service mantra was controversial and there were as many stories of its success as of its complete and utter failure. As such, businesses constantly dealt with the fall out. Customers were empowered by this statement but there was no room to move when transactions were complicated or customers were dishonest. On top of this, information that was gleaned from focus groups about what a customer really wanted was often contradictory.  This left businesses confused and customers frustrated.

The Middle

Steve Jobs famously claimed to never listen to the customer, because they didn’t know what they wanted. This is pretty powerful stuff from the man who revolutionised the desktop computer.

Let me put this into perspective.

In 2009 I had a flip-top phone… I loved it. I could do everything I wanted to do with it. You see, I’m not an early adopter. I liked my comfortable “I know how to use this thing” technology. I was resistant.  If you’d asked me what I wanted back then, I’d have said I was happy, I could text, I could phone my loved ones and I could send photos. So if anything, I probably would have simply asked for better quality photos to take and send. Now, in hindsight, you can see the limitations of my request. What I wanted (as a customer) was limited to what I already did with the product.

Aha!…Proof there are limitations to listening too closely to your customers.

Personally, when I have been very loyal to a brand it hasn’t been about them giving me what (I thought) I wanted, my loyalty goes to companies who I have had positive interactions with in good times and in bad. They have earned my loyalty when I felt they had my best interests at heart.  They have earned my respect when they brought something to the table beyond my expectations, and I’ve been left feeling genuinely happy after the experience. That is where the customer-focused power is.  That is what customer centricity is about.

As a customer, let’s leave it to the companies to predict what we need and delight us with the unexpected. They have the technology, the brains and the motivation to do so after all.  Because as a customer, I don’t know what I want, I just know how I want to feel… valued, important and delighted.

The Present

Thankfully, the customer mantra has evolved. Customer centricity has risen out of a customer-facing world that has grown up. Businesses are beginning to understand that if they are authentic in the way they communicate with their customer and treat them with empathy and respect during every transaction, they’ll build genuine bonds and create valuable advocates for their brand.

The Future

Who knows? But it has all the indications that it’s a bright one for both company and customer alike.

Bunch are working on many programs for clients who are turning the big ship around slowly to focus once again on what will delight their customers.

Get your sunglasses on, because we’re turning toward the sun.


  1. Lisa Taylor

    Awesome article Steph, A wise old man told me once that the customer was always right (my dad) and I still believe it is true. Our manifestation and translation of this however now openly and unashamedly puts people, purpose and culture at the forefront and change is a beautiful thing – we are all just adapting to a life of unexpected evolution. It is exciting to see what is around the corner

    • Stephanie Bradshaw

      Thanks for your comment Lisa. Yes the unexpected evolutions are the most exciting and the ones that are the most successful put people first. We have to remember, the technology we use only facilitates great innovation and disruption – it is people who innovate.

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