The Customer-Centric Dilemma

3 min read

Richard Vibert

03 Apr 2019

In 2012, Jeff Bezos said to his shareholders:

“When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to.”

This customer-centric and long-term mentality has led Amazon on the meteoric rise to being one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Being customer-centric means obsessing over your customer. Not focusing on competition. Making every decision in the context of the customer experience even if it has negative short-term consequences.

But in the Data Ethics Age, many companies are faced with a customer-centric dilemma:

  1. Revenue relies on marketing and marketing relies on the use of consumer data
  2. Consumers are increasingly reluctant to share their data

This paradox is posing an increasingly big problem. Most companies try to solve it by not telling their customers upfront how they use their data or whom they share it with. They bury the details in impossible-to-read legal jargon and use dark patterns to force opt-in.

This is short-term thinking. It has led to a massive lack of trust between internet companies and their customers. But it has also opened up an opportunity.

Start thinking long-term.

Give your customers transparency and control of their data. Sacrifice short-term gains for building real trust with your customers. Give them:

The BBC does a good job at explaining to you why they need your data at the point of collecting it.

Spotify has an easy-to-use “Download your data” feature. (However, there are question marks over whether this returns all personal data Spotify has on you.)

Requiring consent before kicking-off Google Analytics is going to make your stats slightly worse. Removing the Facebook Pixel from your webpage is going to weaken your retargeting. Making it easy to remove data requires extra technical work.

But opportunities with fantastic upside seldom make sense in the short-term.

The best companies are those that take bold decisions like these. In the short term, spending money to deliver value above what your customers could reasonably expect looks foolhardy — in the long run, it could be your competitive advantage.

It’s time to invest in becoming a data ethical company. Don’t consider it a tick-the-box exercise but an opportunity to build long-term trust. Create a connection with your customers that’s hard to break.

So, ask yourself the questions:

  1. Are you here for the long-term or just looking for short-term wins?
  2. Are you a customer-centric company?
  3. Are you willing to make bold decisions?

If yes, then…

Make bold decisions. Make sacrifices. Make customers trust you.

(Under the GDPR, you actually have to do a lot of these things anyway. Do you see it as a tick-the-box exercise 🙇 or an opportunity 🙋‍♂️?)

the author

Richard Vibert

Cofounder & CEO