Would you risk your job for customers?
Client advocacy is the only choice.
We fundamentally understand the importance and value of customers to our businesses. Duh! How many times have we said out loud – “The customer is always right.” or “Customers are king.” to prove a point or solve a problem? Easier said than done, right?
Risking your job for a customer, especially during the worldwide pandemic and economic disruption brings up fresh debate. But I would argue advocating for customers is even more important today!
How far would you go for customers?
What if you work in customer service and have a client screaming at you at 7 in the morning? How about a software engineer managing a backlog of 1,000 functionality improvements when a key customer demands their feature request be added to the next sprint? What about the reverse – the top brass would rather bolster the bottom line at the customers expense? Unfortunately, all of those scenarios happened on my watch.
Marketing principle #1: advocate for customers
Even as a young, green marketer, I instinctively embraced doing what’s right for clients. Customer advocacy was and still is my #1 marketing principle even if it means challenging leadership. My story to share – all the names will remain anonymous to save them from public embarrassment – pushed this belief to the limits.
Shortsighted business decisions hurt customers and employees
My CEO wanted to move my product portfolio’s manufacturing overseas to reduce costs. He was an operations guy and the opportunity to decrease direct product costs as well as overhead was a priority for him. Mind you, my current plant was brand-new, just minutes from my office and was a showcase facility for customers. After much thought and analysis on my part, I told my general manager that we would lose 5% market share at a minimum. We were market share leaders and we would also negatively denigrate the brand. He said to me – I’ll never forget this – “Jessica, you are crazy – that will never happen.” Peculiarly, none of my colleagues were standing on a table screaming as I was and my GM basically told me to shut it or else. The CEO closed the US plant and moved it to China where we promptly lost a multimillion-dollar recurring contract. Further, to add insult to injury, a new competitor entered the marketplace causing our share and revenue to tumble. A few years later and long after I changed companies, senior management eventually moved the plant – for a third time! – to the European Union, but it took them many years to get the contract back. Good grief! This example is a prime candidate for a Harvard Business Review article as it caused crappy employee morale, lost customer goodwill, revenue, and contracts, as well as needless investment waste and decreased market share.
Always fight for your customer
Advocating for customers may not be the easiest or safest route, especially if you’re the only one raising your hand. Although you may not be successful in your approach at your current organization or even the next, your customers will appreciate that you are their advocate. Doing the right thing keeps you true to yourself and allows you to sleep well at night. You won’t regret it!
Share your stories
I’d love to hear how you fought for your customers.
Keeping marketing accountable.
Jessica Kelley is a seasoned leader with more than two decades of marketing and finance experience in B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $100 billion corporation to a startup firm. Her company, HPZ Marketing, is certified by the WBENC as a Women’s Business Enterprise.