The Consequences of NOT Putting Your Customers First

Knowing that I work a side job in a beauty salon environment, my nieces came to me with a disturbing story.

They’d scheduled side-by-side facials and pedicures a week and a half prior to their appointment day only to arrive at the salon and discover no one was available to honor those appointments.

Several stylists were milling around the receptionist’s desk talking and when asked if they could accomodate my nieces (the salon takes walk-ins), the stylists looked them over in a derisive way, made a “tsking” sound and walked away. My nieces were told—not so nicely—to sit down by a supervisor who then disappeared. After almost a half hour of waiting, with zero communication and no further acknowledgement, my nieces got frustrated and walked out.

“We’ll never go back there again,” my nieces emphatically told me.

89% of customer service professionals agree that customers are more likely to share positive or negative experiences now than in the past.


Now let me tell you a story about a different service business. This restaurant isn’t fancy, or big. The building was probably built back in the 60’s or 70’s and could probably use some repairs and updates, but the food is pretty decent. While there are definitely more modern restaurants in the area with equally good or better food, you’d be hard pressed to find better customer service.

The owner recognizes everyone that comes in, and calls them by name. When she’s not busy taking orders or managing the kitchen, she’d out visiting each table, talking to the guests and asking them what’s going on in their lives. People feel special when they go to this restaurant and they return again and again because of how the owner treats them.

According to Customer Service Manager:

“In today’s world of few small stores and many large stores, much of that personal touch is ignored, and there seems to have been a departure from the concept of serving the customer and his needs.”

Businesses with employees who are rude, indifferent, condescending or otherwise unpleasant are fanning the fire of customer churn if they don’t start making service the priority it should be. After all, customers today have higher expectations than in the past and they’re not going to wait around for you to get it right.

In fact, 47% of customers say they’ll stop buying from a company if they have a subpar experience and 76% of customers say it’s now easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

What does it mean to be “customer-first” oriented?

While many companies claim they’re “customer-first”, very few organizations actually take the necessary steps to back it up. For example, a study conducted by HubSpot revealed that only 58% of companies survey their customers to collect feedback. To that end, HubSpot says:

“We strongly believe that being “customer-first” starts first with being in touch with your customers.”

Companies need to bridge the gap between saying they’re “customer-first” and having a measly 12% of customers believe businesses when they claim “they solve for the customer” or “put the customer first”.

Here are 6 things to keep in mind if you want to succeed at a customer-first strategy:

  1. Treat customers right—they’ll define your success more than you can.
  2. Set employees up for success—empower and motivate them to create great customer experiences.
  3. Study customer data and collect feedback—it’s the only way you can truly understand them and make their lives better.
  4. Deliver on your promises—break any promise that you’ve made and it will send a clear message that you don’t value your customers’ priorities.
  5. Make customer-first an organizational culture—this ensures that everyone under your company’s umbrella is focused on providing customers with the solutions that they need.
  6. Adapt/change with time—customer needs and requirements change all the time. Your products, services and solutions should too.


Putting the customer first involves placing their needs and requirements ahead of anything and everything else. It means doing your research so you can build authentic relationships with your consumers and provide them with a truly personalized experience.

To be customer-first oriented, you must excel in customer-care, as well as after-sales service. You should also adapt to customers’ ever-changing needs and wants. And don’t forget to measure customer-satisfaction levels to determine the success of your business.

Fail to do these things and you’ll lose your customers to competitors who are simply better at it.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.