Truth and Lies of Customer-First Strategies

For decades experts have claimed that putting your customers first propels increased customer loyalty. As a result, a customer-first focus has driven company sales and marketing strategies.

Fast-growing companies see growth quite differently. Over the past two years, I’ve interviewed founders and CEOs of privately held companies in the top 1% of their growth trajectory. During our conversations, they identified the strategies that most heavily impact their growth — and putting customers first was rarely mentioned.

Why not customer-first?

“Work” historically has had a bad rap — something people had to do for money. In the 21st-century economy, evolved leaders are challenging this concept because they value their employees and want to create a workplace that enables employee growth. They show up with a greater sense of pride knowing that putting employees first will drive new ways to increase growth.

It’s not just small companies re-evaluating the customer-first approach. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, declared, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Hilton also works tirelessly to become a place where employees are the priority. They moved from 33rd on the 2018 Great Places to Work List to first on the 2019 list. Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s CHRO, provided more context for its employee-first mantra. “Reduced turnover means a more engaged group of team members serving our guests. They are happy. They provide better service in the moment. They’ve got a bounce in their step when walking around the property. And that makes a massive difference when it comes to guest satisfaction.”

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Gene Hammett

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Gene Hammett is a leading expert on high-growth company culture and leadership. He consults companies to activate new growth and reduce the high cost of ineffective leadership.


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