Treat customers as people first for your business to thrive


Businesses interact with customers daily, both directly and indirectly.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Businesses need people willing to buy their products or services
  • Customers buy what businesses produce

 Can a business survive without people? Certainly not. It is people that breathe life into businesses. People make businesses work. People are involved in both production and consumption. The majority of the people that are involved in businesses are the customers. Customers buy what businesses produce.

Businesses interact with customers daily, both directly and indirectly. It does not matter whether your business is C2C, B2C, or B2B, people are involved either as final consumers of the products or services we provide or as intermediaries. Even where businesses interact with other businesses, it is the people in those businesses that interact. Show me a business without people and it will most likely be a fantasy.

Businesses need people willing to buy their products or services. These people are the customers that fuel our businesses. Without them, our businesses couldn’t survive. When customers buy our products or services and we deduct the expenses, we make a profit and create some wealth for the shareholders.

As a result, when we design products and services, we must keep the human factor in mind. What problems are our products and services solving for people? Products and services must provide solutions to people's everyday problems. Insurance, for example, reduces risk and offers peace of mind. Supermarkets solve the problem of finding everything we need. Telecommunications companies offer solutions that help us stay connected. Overall, businesses should aim at creating better human experiences. Does the human element inspire your product and service design?

Most activities in our businesses are aimed at meeting the needs and expectations of our customers. The success of our customers is our success. How are our activities focused on the customers' success? Take, for example, a bank; as a financial services provider, how does it support its customers' financial well-being? Many universal traits characterize people as human beings. In particular, the Qualtrics XM institute has identified six traits that affect how people experience our businesses.

Smart business

The Institute identifies humans as intuitive, self-centered, emotional, motivated, social, and hopeful. Every smart business takes into consideration these characteristics in its interactions with customers. How can we support our customers to succeed? How can we make them feel good about being our customers? Have we defined what customer success looks like for your business? Once we have clarity about what customer success looks like, we can intentionally align every activity in our business with our customer’s needs and expectations. This is not a one-week agenda. We need to make our customers’ success part of our DNA!

Human beings remain complex, yet they prefer simplicity. It is for this reason that, as businesses, we need to simplify our product and service design as well as our everyday interactions with customers. Are we causing our customers pain? How can we reduce that pain? Human beings are irrational.

This means we need to care about how they feel. Every business has an opportunity to show deep empathy both when all is well and when there is an expression of dissatisfaction. We need to put our customers at the centre of our business’s existence.

Our leadership, strategy, people, our processes, our innovation, our performance and, above all, our culture must have the human approach well integrated. As we interact with our customers every day, let us not forget that they are people first!

Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy