4 Characteristics of a Customer-Obsessed Enterprise and Strategies for Becoming One

Customers have higher expectations than they did a decade ago. With the proliferation of digital devices, content, and channels, they know they can get what they want in their moment of need.

They’ve received the highest levels of customer experiences from brands like Starbucks and Amazon, and believe they deserve special treatment from every one of their brands.

But they also are fatigued. With so many options at their fingertips, they have more choices and decisions to make, which creates stress that they didn’t have before.

Most companies—and marketers—however, are ill prepared to deal with these trends.

In her keynote address at Aprimo Sync! Nashville last week, Shar VanBoskirk, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., recommended that enterprises make customers the center of their total operating model to succeed in this new era of entitled customers.

To put it bluntly, they need to become customer obsessed, she added.

Characteristics of a customer-obsessed company

VanBoskirk told the 170 Sync! attendees that companies that are customer obsessed have four general characteristics.

1: They are customer led, not just customer aware. Marketers are likely already aware of their customer personas. But being customer led requires being aware of all their customers’ needs and desires, sometimes even before their customer are. For example, being customer led includes using customer insights to determine where to open a new branch or what new features your products need.

2: They are insights driven, not just data rich. Your company likely has a lot of data. But customer obsessed companies collect and analyze the right data, so they ensure they are making these decisions based on customer needs.

3: They are fast, but not perfect. Just because you have a lot of customer data and insight isn’t an excuse to be irresponsible. “Customer-obsessed companies are iterative and deliberately roll out plans as part of their strategy to be customer led or responding to market conditions,” VanBoskirk said.

4: They are connected, not siloed. Your organization needs to get on the same page with processes and communication. You need to improve collaboration and overall enterprise orientation to be fully customer led. That’s because “being customer led isn’t about doing something in one place or as a single campaign. It’s about being customer led everywhere—in every operational decision you make, every person you interview, every technology you build or buy, every process, and every metric,” she added.

And as marketing is the closest function to the customer, it’s up to marketers lead this customer obsession for their enterprise, VanBoskirk said.

How to become customer obsessed

In addition to the above characteristics, VanBoskirk challenged Sync! attendees with 3 responsibilities and 4 habits that their marketing teams must take on to become customer obsessed. She said by doing this behind-the-scenes work, marketers can evolve to meet the changing expectations of their customers.


  • Focus on customer understanding. Be the advocate for the customer in every team, including product, human resources, etc., so that every part of your business thinks about being customer led.
  • Develop and execute an overall brand strategy throughout your organization. It’s not just about how you externally communicate about your brand, but also determining your values and how you live those out, not just in your marketing, but every customer experience.
  • Demonstrate your brand promise. You don’t need to bow to customer whims. But you must find the intersection in what your customers need and what your brand believes in, then demonstrate that everywhere.

While these customer obsession challenges may seem complex, they can easily be broken down into 4 simple habits, VanBoskirk said.

  • Listen to customers.
  • Lead by strategy.
  • Connect your business and external teams.
  • Calibrate to connect activities to business performance.

These behind-the-scenes responsibilities and habits of becoming customer obsessed might sound like a risky new strategy for your business. They might even require implementing some new solutions and processes to facilitate. But the risk of not changing tactics in this time of emerging digital devices, channels, and content is even greater.

The practices you had before were for a time before we had entitled customers. You need to stay relevant to the market where it is now, so you continue to have a competitive edge, VanBoskirk said.

“We have more intimate access to our customers than ever before,” she said. “Customer obsession is earnestly giving them value, solving their problems, and making their lives better. If you figure that out, you win.”

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