Should You Listen to Your Customers?

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on January 27, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Coaching Ins and Outs

Businesses need to work hard to stay competitive: they need to find new customers, outpace the competitors, stay on top of marketplace demands, and continually innovate. One problem that many businesses have is that they listen too closely to their customer.

I’ll pause here a moment while you pick your jaw up off of the floor. I’m sure that many people don’t like to hear what I just said, particularly with our customer-centric view of business success. Some of you (especially my customers!!!) might want to know what I’m thinking and how I can balance that against the beloved business maxim “the customer is always right”.

So, let me clarify: I said “one problem that many businesses have is that they listen too closely to their customers”. In general, I believe that businesses SHOULD listen to their customers and should bend over backwards to make sure that their customers are thrilled. They should provide so much value to their customers that those customers wouldn’t think of shopping anywhere else.


When it comes to innovation and evolution in the business, the customer’s point of view should be shuffled to the back. The reason is, the customer is focused on themselves and what they can derive from the business and so they approach the business and its products or services from their own perspective. However, a business comes at the situation from the opposite direction.

As Henry Ford famously put it, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.”

I would suggest that you sell your existing products and services with the approach that the customer is always right. But you innovate with Ford’s idea that the customer is wrong.

In an upcoming blog, I’m going to tell you about an innovation trick that (I think) demonstrates this method extremely well.

Here is to innovation,

Heather Villa

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I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.