Customer Obsession: A Guide for a Better Marketing Strategy

Key Insights: Customer-Obsessed Brands Always Win

  • Customer Obsession is a Winning Strategy. Customer-obsessed brands innovate faster, create products that reflect customer feedback, prioritize the customer’s voice, and showcase success through revenue, profit, and market leadership. This approach ensures that the brand’s marketing efforts are deeply connected with the target audience, always putting their needs and wants at the forefront.
  • Customer Obsession is a Mindset, Not a Manifesto. It’s not just a set of values or a banner in the lobby; customer obsession is a way of thinking and leading. It involves cultivating a company culture that rallies behind its number one asset—customers, ensuring that their experiences with the brand are always memorable and positive.
  • A Surprising Minority of Brands are Truly Customer-Obsessed. According to Forrester, despite the widespread acknowledgment of its importance, only 8% of brands are genuinely customer-obsessed. This highlights a significant gap between brands’ perception of their customer focus and reality, indicating a need for a more profound, actionable commitment to customer obsession.
  • Benefits of Customer Obsession are Multifaceted. Brands that prioritize customer obsession experience deeper customer relationships, increased brand loyalty, more referrals, positive social proof, and enhanced customer retention. These benefits are interlinked, creating a positive feedback loop and strengthening the brand-customer relationship.
  • Creating a Customer-Obsessed Culture Requires Strategic Actions. To build a genuinely customer-obsessed culture. Brands must define what it means to them, integrate it into all training programs, develop systems that enforce the culture change, and measure and reward customer-obsessed behaviors among employees. This ensures that the principle of customer obsession permeates every level and aspect of the organization.
  • Data is the Starting Point for Customer Obsession. Employing tactics like customer surveys focus groups, and leveraging customer data are pivotal in understanding and anticipating customer needs and behaviors. This data-driven approach ensures that brands can tailor their strategies and offerings to meet and exceed customer expectations, enhancing the overall customer experience.
  • Learning from Giants: Amazon’s Customer Obsession. Amazon exemplifies customer obsession by starting with the customer and working backward, focusing on earning and maintaining customer trust, and continually using a blend of data and anecdotal evidence to refine its customer focus. This approach has led to creation of innovative products and services that are deeply aligned with customer needs and values.

Ask any CMO if they are customer-obsessed; the answer will always be a resounding yes. But the saying, “actions speak louder than words,” could not be more true regarding customer obsession.

Why this matters: 

Brands that prioritize customer obsession win. They innovate faster. Their products are direct manifestations of customer feedback. They put the voice of the customer ahead of all things in the business. Their revenue numbers, profit, NPS scores, and market leadership prove that.

At its core, being customer-obsessed means that your brand’s marketing efforts are focused on creating and maintaining a deep connection with your target audience. It’s about putting the customer first in everything you do and always considering their needs and wants.

It’s no secret that the most successful brands on earth focus on their customers. Just think about some of the world’s biggest and most well-known brands. Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple are customer-obsessed companies with epic products. And it’s no coincidence that they lead in their respective markets.

An image of customer obsession

What is Customer Obsession?

Customer obsession is that inner voice that constantly asks, how can we make this experience more memorable for our customers? Customer obsession is the driver of innovation and continuous improvement and is the emotion that motivates us to work day in and day out to provide the best possible experience for every customer with every brand interaction.

Customer obsession wins every time.

Customer obsession is not a manifesto. It’s not a set of brand values printed in an employee handbook. It’s not a giant banner hanging in the company lobby. Customer obsession is a way of thinking, leading, and cultivating company culture to rally behind its number one brand asset–customers.

Why Should Brands Obsess Over Customer Obsession

Customer-obsessed brands see the world through the lens of their customers and make decisions accordingly. Brands will always buy into the theory of customer obsession. But it’s surprising and sad that just 8% of brands are customer-obsessed, according to Forrester.

In today’s climate, the customer is always right, but not in the context you’re thinking. Only customers know what they want, so your job is to understand and anticipate their needs and give them what they’re asking for, even if they don’t know it yet. Steve Jobs was the master at anticipating customer needs, as communicated in this quote from 1997, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

To stay relevant and top of mind, brands must embed the theory of customer obsession in everything they do, in and outside marketing, and make it actionable in every facet of the organization. This means you must obsess 24-7 and meet customer needs at every possible touchpoint.

The Benefits of Customer Obsession

Customer-obsessed brands experience four primary benefits: 1) deeper customer relationships, 2) increased brand loyalty, 3) referrals and positive social proof, and 4) customer retention.

An image of customer obsessed brands

Deeper Relationships with Customers

The first benefit of customer obsession is developing deeper relationships with customers. When you focus on making the customer experience seamless and enjoyable, you build trust and credibility with them. They will remember the experience and tell others about it. A study by Bain & Company found that “80% of brands believe they deliver a strong and integrated digital experience, only 8% of their customers agree.” This disconnect can be costly to any business, leading to customers taking their business to your competitors.

Developing deeper customer relationships based on trust and credibility is the key to bridging this gap. This can be done by ensuring that you are always putting the customer first, addressing their needs and wants, and delivering on your promises.

Increased Customer Loyalty

The second benefit of customer obsession is increased brand loyalty. In today’s hyper-sensitive and competitive world, consumers have so many choices that it can be challenging to get them to commit to one brand. But if you focus on making the digital experience exceptional, you will earn their trust and loyalty.

A study by American Express found that “33% of consumers would consider switching brands if they had a bad customer service experience.” This shows that even if a customer is happy with a product or service, they won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere if they have a poor experience with customer service.

On the other hand, in the same study, Bain found that “loyalty has declined across nearly all industries in the past decade… Yet brands focused on delivering great customer experiences are bucking this trend: 86% say their customers are either extremely or very loyal.”

Referrals and Positive Social Proof

The third benefit of customer obsession is referrals and positive social proof. A more dated study by Nielsen found that “92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth and product recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of media.” This shows that customers are likelier to trust a recommendation from a friend or family member than to trust an advertisement. Companies that operationalize and integrate brand ambassador programs into digital marketing immediately see positive social proof.

Customer Retention

The fourth benefit is customer retention. In today’s world, it is easier for customers to take their business elsewhere. But if you focus on solving customer issues quickly and efficiently, they are likelier to stick with you through the good and bad times. In a study by customer experience management (CXM) company Merkle, 73% of consumers say a consistent experience makes it more likely to continue doing business with the same company. This shows that providing a consistent experience will make you more likely to retain customers.

The key to customer retention is to focus on personalized digital experiences. Ensure you always put the customer at the core of your digital marketing strategy, address their needs and wants, and deliver on your brand promise. Doing this will earn their trust and loyalty, leading to continued business.

Steps to Create a Customer-Obsessed Company Culture

Write a Crystal Clear DefinitionDefine customer obsession clearly, including creating a brand narrative and mission statement that emphasizes its importance and how customer feedback is utilized.
Integrate Customer Obsession Into TrainingEmbed customer obsession into all training programs, ensuring every employee understands how to effectively engage and delight customers.
Develop Systems for Culture ChangeImplement customer obsession in hiring and establish a consistent feedback loop, such as customer panels or surveys, to make feedback actionable.
Measure and Reward Customer ObsessionInclude customer obsession in performance reviews, track relevant metrics, and reward contributions to the culture with various incentives.

If you want to create a customer-obsessed company culture, there are four key actions you need to take to make this happen.

1. Write a Crystal Clear Definition

The first step is to define what it means to be customer-obsessed. This will help you develop a clear vision for your organization and ensure everyone is on the same page. This will include writing a brand narrative, brand values, and a company mission statement. The language should include why customer obsession matters to your business, how you cultivate customer feedback into your culture, and why all your company stakeholders should care.


Our mission is to relentlessly earn the lifelong loyalty of our customers. We aim to anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations through innovative solutions delivered with care and humanity. Our customers’ voices guide every decision we make. By understanding them deeply and addressing their pain points, we strive to empower their growth and success. Our commitment to this mission unites us across teams and roles. We measure our achievements not by our bottom line but by the trust we build with each customer, we serve.

Once you have the language defined and approved by all leadership, you’ll have to infuse it into all company communications–hiring materials, job descriptions, intranet, employee handbook, the metaverse, and other messaging and signage at company offices.

2. Integrate Customer Obsession Into All Training Programs

Customer obsession must permeate all aspects of your company, becoming ingrained into the very fabric of your culture. Integrating it into every training program, regardless of department or function.

For retailers, train sales associates to engage customers, meet their needs and exceed expectations. Equip call center staff with the skills to resolve issues efficiently and demonstrate true empathy. For truck drivers and warehouse workers, highlight how their roles ensure seamless, on-time deliveries that wow customers.

In SaaS companies, provide customer support reps with advanced troubleshooting skills and teach them to communicate complex issues. Enable account managers to act as trusted advisors who guide clients to success. Emphasize to engineers how focusing on customer needs when designing features creates value.

The possibilities are endless, but the objective remains consistent – ensure that employees at all levels and teams develop a customer-centric mindset. They should fully grasp how their individual contributions, no matter how small, collectively add up to an unrivaled customer experience.

This obsession must be woven into the fabric of your organizational culture. When customer centricity flows through the veins of every employee, you create a workforce that consistently delights customers and delivers exceptional value. Make it a non-negotiable component of all training programs.

3. Develop Systems to Force Fit Culture Change

This will ensure that your organization is set up for success from the start. Customer obsession should be included in all the hiring material, including job descriptions, interview questions, and screening documents. It means that hiring managers and recruiting staff should be talking to candidates passionate about customer retention and focusing on integrated digital experiences.

You will also want to create a system for a consistent customer feedback loop to ensure that you are constantly collecting feedback and making it actionable. For example, this could be a customer panel you can poll regularly, or an NPS survey sent out after each customer interaction. Or, it can include a more intimate experience by creating a customer advisory panel where you meet in person or on the phone.

4. Measure and Reward Those Who Are Customer-obsessed

Customer obsession should be included in all employee performance reviews, with metrics that are tracked and reported regularly. This could include customer satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Scores, or customer churn rates. In addition, you will want to ensure that you reward employees for their efforts in creating a customer-obsessed culture. This could be through financial incentives, bonuses, extra PTO, or other perks and benefits.

Following these four steps, you can create a customer-obsessed culture within your company that will improve brand loyalty, long-term satisfaction, and customer advocacy.

Customer Obsession Starts With Data

On a tactical level, there are three tactics you can implement to get a better understanding of your customers:

An image of customer obsession and data.
  • Customer surveys. This will help you collect feedback and insights on various topics, such as customer satisfaction, product/service usage, competitive analysis, and brand perception.
  • Focus Groups. While this may seem dated, focus groups or one-on-one customer interviews can provide insightful feedback to understand the motivations behind their responses.
  • Customer data. This will help you identify trends and patterns in customer behavior. The data can come from secondary research, web analytics, social metrics, or audience analytics.

Customer-obsessed companies are using tactics like this to ensure they are driven by insights that go above and beyond what their competition is doing. Recent CMO data proves that executives crave customer data to improve everything related to the experience.

Lessons from Amazon about Customer Obsession

Amazon’s customer-centric culture embodies its leadership principle of starting with the customer and working backward. This principle prioritizes earning and keeping customer trust above all else.

Amazon started by identifying customer needs and values when developing new products and services. This often involves crafting a mock press release to outline the product’s benefits for customers. This’ working backward’ method created Alexa, Echo, and Fire TV.

Amazon recognizes that trust takes time to build but can be destroyed instantly. Even a single negative experience can unravel years of trust-building. While monitoring competitors, Amazon believes that obsessive customer focus is paramount.

Data provides insights into customer needs, but anecdotes – especially those revealing outlier experiences – are equally important. Customer interactions are viewed as opportunities to understand and resolve issues. Reviews and feedback help uncover problems to address.

Empowering all employees to identify and fix customer issues enables continual improvement. This blend of data and anecdotal evidence allows Amazon to refine and evolve its customer obsession constantly.

Other Examples of Customer-Obsessed Brands

Some of the most customer-obsessed brands have built their entire business model around the customer experience. These companies have made it their mission to put the customer first in everything they do.

Zappos is a prime example of a company focused on the customer’s digital experience. The company was founded by Tony Hsieh to “provide the best customer service possible.” This mission has translated into a company culture entirely focused on the customer. Zappos employees are empowered to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy, even if it means going above and beyond what is expected. Amazon acquired Zappos in 2009 for $1.2 billion, and the company has only continued to grow.

Another example of a customer-obsessed brand is Nordstrom. The high-end retailer is known for its exceptional customer service and has built its reputation on providing a luxury shopping experience. Nordstrom’s employees are trained to be customer service experts and are always available to help shoppers find what they want. The company has also implemented several customer-centric policies, such as free shipping and returns, to make the shopping experience seamless.

These two companies have made customer obsession a part of their DNA. Putting the customer first in everything they do has created a loyal customer base and grown their business.

The Future of Customer Obsession

As the marketing world evolves, customer-centric strategies and programs will become even more critical. With the advent of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, companies will need to find new ways to stand out from the competition and provide an exceptional customer experience

Companies must consider using these new technologies to improve the customer experience to stay ahead of the curve. For example, companies can use AI to personalize the digital experience or provide real-time customer support. VR can be used to create immersive and interactive experiences that will delight customers. And the metaverse for business opens up new marketing opportunities as the technology innovates and consumer adoption skyrockets.

Customer-obsessed companies are winning and doing so by wide margins. Companies can create a loyal customer base by putting the customer first and differentiating themselves from the competition. In the future, customer obsession will become even more critical as new technologies emerge. Companies that can use these technologies to improve the customer experience will be the ones that succeed.


What is a customer obsession?

Customer obsession is a mindset and approach where a company consistently prioritizes the customer’s needs, wants, and experiences, always asking how experiences can be made more memorable for them. It drives innovation and continuous improvement, motivating companies to provide the best possible experience with every customer interaction.

Why customer obsession is important?

Customer obsession is vital because it leads to faster innovation, products directly manifestations of customer feedback, and prioritization of the customer’s voice in all business aspects. Customer-obsessed brands often showcase their success through metrics like revenue, profit, NPS scores, and market leadership, proving that putting the customer first leads to tangible business benefits.

How do you improve customer obsession?

Improving customer obsession involves defining what it means to your organization, integrating it into all training programs, developing systems that enforce a culture change, and measuring and rewarding customer-obsessed behaviors among employees. It requires a structured approach to ensure customer obsession is embedded in every aspect of the organization’s operations and mindset.

What is a good example of customer obsession?

Amazon is a notable example of customer obsession, embodying a customer-centric culture that prioritizes earning and keeping customer trust. They start by identifying customer needs when developing new products and services, often using a ‘working backward’ method that has led to innovative products like Alexa, Echo, and Fire TV.

Which behaviors demonstrate a customer-obsessed attitude?

Behaviors demonstrating a customer-obsessed attitude include consistently putting customer needs first, actively seeking and valuing their feedback, making decisions through customer impact, and continuously striving to enhance their experiences. It also ensures that every interaction with your brand is positive, memorable, and exceeds their expectations.

What are the benefits of customer obsession?

Customer-obsessed brands experience deeper customer relationships, increased brand loyalty, enhanced referrals and positive social proof, and improved customer retention. These benefits create a positive feedback loop that strengthens the brand-customer relationship and contributes to business success.

How does customer obsession affect customer loyalty?

Customer obsession directly impacts customer loyalty by ensuring that the digital and overall brand experience is exceptional, thereby earning customer trust and loyalty. Focusing on making every customer interaction seamless and enjoyable builds trust and credibility, making customers more likely to stick with the brand and become loyal advocates.

What role does data play in customer obsession?

Data plays a crucial role in customer obsession by providing insights into customer needs, behaviors, and preferences. Tactics like customer surveys, focus groups, and data analysis help brands identify trends and patterns in customer behavior, ensuring that strategies and offerings are tailored to meet and exceed customer expectations.

How can a company culture become customer-obsessed?

To create a customer-obsessed company culture, organizations must clearly define what customer obsession means to them, integrate it into all training and development programs, develop systems that enforce the cultural shift, and measure and reward customer-obsessed behaviors. This ensures that the principle of customer obsession is deeply embedded in the organization’s operations and mindset.

What are some other examples of customer-obsessed brands?

Zappos and Nordstrom are examples of customer-obsessed brands that have built their business models around the customer experience. Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service, and a company culture focused on customer happiness. At the same time, Nordstrom is renowned for its luxury shopping experience and customer-centric policies like free shipping and returns.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.