The customer is always at the center of the customer's universe, which means that your own concerns, hopes, processes, branding efforts and so forth are, at most, tangential to your customers.
This is a simple but hard to grasp reality. Simple because it is so direct and extreme. Hard to grasp because it is, essentially, unnatural. Those of us who work directly with customers (and those of us who design the systems that affect how your company works with customers) are human beings. And naturally, as human beings, we tend to have ourselves (and our loved ones, and our passions and interests) at the center of our reality.
But what feels natural to us as human beings and what works in business are at times quite different. And this is one of those times.
Here's what "the customer is at the center of the customer's universe" means in day-to-day language:
- Your hangover does not matter to a customer, even though it is making you ache behind your eyeballs.
- The traffic jam you suffered through on the way to work does not matter to your customer, even though it is still rattling around in your head.
- Your frustration with the new technology in the office does not matter to the customer. Even your fascination with nifty new features in the technology does not matter to the customer.
What matters to the customer is the customer, and the people the customer cares about, a category that only tangentially, at best, includes you, the service provider.
Seth Godin once pointed out that "when you hand someone a photo album or a yearbook, the first thing they will do is seek out their own picture."
I would extend this thinking even further. Every minute the customer is with you, the customer is thinking about his own reality, or the reality of his relationship with the people who matter to him.Think about this reality--because it is reality. Incorporate it into everything you do in business. There is truly no other way.