I'm an MBA student and taking a class on Operations Management. I found it intriguing and impressed that our text book -- written by the professor -- made the following claim:
"The CUSTOMER is ALWAYS the center and the most important focus of business, because they have what we want -- THE MONEY."
On our internal discussion board I posted the following:
It's interesting that you say the customer is always central. A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G), recently wrote a book called "Game-Changer." In it he says that the "customer is king" around this doctrine everything in the business revolves. P&G, similar to many other companies, has began to do on-site ethnography studies on how people -- customers -- actually use P&G products, like Tide. They live in a customer's house observing their daily lives and how they interact with products and then take this information back to development.
Companies like IDEO, an industrial design firm in California, and Adaptive Path, a web development firm, use the term empathy as it relates to customers and consumers. In this regard, empathy is the ability to consider how customers will respond, how customers will interact and use a products, and how they experience products and services.
This approach actually involves all aspects of the business. It's not balkanized into marketing. If fact, just the opposite. IDEO, when it worked with a hospital on how it could improve its services, it had the CEO and Senior Management play-act the role of patient to see how it felt to go through their hospital. When it comes to customer services, customer-centric organizations everyone is involved. Engineers need to learn to work directly with customers. Accountants and financial people need to learn to work with customers. Programmers need to learn to work with customers. Yet, it's been the norm that only Sales & Marketing have had direct customer contact. Each job function has some measurable impact on the overrall customer experience that not knowing who the customer is or how your job impacts the customer is a type of blindness.
Fundamentally, a business needs to be able to answer two questions -- "Who is our customer?" & "What do they want most when they work with us?"
There's more -- there's always more -- but that's a starting point.