The Customer Is The Real Benchmark, Not The Competition

Jason Fried is a Silicon Valley Maverick who has caused industry ripples with his unconventional Management style. In his New York Times Best Selling book ReWork, Jason says that in his 15-year career as a Business Leader, he has managed to outshine competition by doing less and teaching more. His Philosophy is simple, “The Competition isn’t the real Benchmark; the Customer is”

Basecamp, his software company, is a Market Leader in Project Management tools with 15 Million customers across the World. In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review, Jason revealed that his Company was making a radical shift; merging its over a dozen products into one product.


Because while traditional notions of business growth favor diversification, Jason believes what customers could really use, is less bloated software products and less marketing hype.

Is Your Customer At The Center Of Your Value Proposition?

The last two decades have seen emerging companies in Kenya grow to take over the region and continent, outdoing better financed, age-old behemoths in the process.

The largest bank in Africa today by customer base was a little-known building society in rural Kenya just 20 years back.

A telco that started as a department of Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation has grown to become the largest integrated communications provider in East Africa.

The list goes on.

Both these companies outpaced the competition by truly reflecting what customers cared about; an inclusive bank that valued Mama Mboga’s 100 bob, a telco that didn’t charge you per minute for a five-second call, just to name a few.

It Starts With Knowing The Customer Better Than The Competition.

In 2012, American telecom giant T-Mobile, wanted to reduce customer defections to other carriers.

They utilized real-time analysis of customer data records, billing data, and social media sentiment to establish defection triggers, and put in place measures to curb defections. The outcome was a dramatic decrease in defections after just one financial quarter.

In the connected world we live in today, any enterprise system worth its name should allow organizations to quickly, and affordably map customer purchase behavior to social media sentiment, thereby having a deeper understanding of shifting market dynamics.

A recent feature in The Guardian couldn’t have put it better,

“It’s no longer a matter of who you know, but what you know about them. That means CMOs need to be focused on actively listening, engaging and responding to their customers”

Respond Faster Than The Competition.

Instead of relying on surveys and other periodic customer samplings which quickly went out of date, Nestle set up a 24/7 monitoring center to listen to conversations about its products on the internet.

Staff members then proactively reached out to customers and product teams to improve the customer experience with their Brands. In just a year, Nestle’s ranking went up from no. 16 to no.12 in the Reputation Institute’s index of the world’s most reputable companies.

The reality is, you no longer drive your company and brand – your customers do. In this new interactive economy, consumers are interacting with your company in a myriad ways across multiple touch points.

Today’s customers are empowered: they expect companies to give them what they want, how they want it and when they want it. Otherwise, they move next door.

According to a widely referenced 2013 report by Bluewolf, a Global Business Consulting Firm, companies miss or mishandle up to 80% of customer engagement and response opportunities. And a missed opportunity means lost revenue.

Food for thought: could banks have escaped the M-PESA ‘scourge’ if they had better market engagement and response systems?

The ultimate Punch Is Out-Inspiring Your Competitor.

So what if the competitor has 10 times more personnel than you.

Rather than try to match the competitor’s capacity, inspire your team to put 10 times more effort.

Bluewolf’s report talks about getting your team to be Customer Obsessed. New Age leaders realize that customer engagement is a shared responsibility across the enterprise. It is no longer the sole province of sales, marketing or customer service. Every employee must be empowered to recognize a customer engagement opportunity and act on it. 5000 employees should mean 5000 sales people!

Establish an internal system that ensures free flow of information so that employees are enabled to use relevant data to build relationships with customers and solve their problems. Over and above reward and recognition, establish a caring and sharing culture. Are you one of those companies that ban Social Media in your enterprise? Try Social Media ambassadors who help drive productive use of Social Media across your departments. Most Corporates have Intranets that are mostly used by staff for leave form downloads, and nothing more. Establish a customer experience ideas repository that gives Staff the chance to suggest your Brand’s next messaging.

It’s time to go beyond placing your ‘We Value our Customers’ tagline off the Annual Report.

Customers are smart enough to know a brand that truly cares, and one that doesn’t.

Cover Image, Wakala providing M Pesa service | Development Planning Unit University College

Alex Muriu

About Alex Muriu

Head of Digital Marketing at KCB Bank Group. Founded and sold Internet Startup. Held senior positions at Kenya’s leading Ad Agencies and privately consulted for businesses.