It’s been a while since the customer-centric mindset started to come to light. With the advent of young startups who operate their businesses based on their value, the concept is widely embraced.

This is absolutely how the businesses should be and I couldn’t agree more. However, knowing what happened in Japan regarding customer-centricity, I would say the customer centric approach is a double edged sword and you may want to think of what goes on behind the scenes, especially when things get excessive.

Let me give you a bit of context…

What is Customer Centric Approach?

Customer centricity is a concept in which you base decisions on your customer’s needs whether the needs are directly expressed by customers or not. The idea has been increasingly widespread.

The most well-known example who practices this approach is Amazon, though they call it customer obsession. To practice customer centric approach, they follow three principles: low prices, fast-delivery and vast selections to keep their customers happy.

Japan & Customer Centricity

In Japan, there’s a proverb, ‘Okyakusama Wa Kamisama’, meaning ‘Your customers are god’ in English whose concept is similar to what customer centricity intends – though there are arguments where the original meaning of ‘Okyakusama Wa Kamisama’ may have been twisted as time goes by. Anyways, the idea is to prioritize your customers.
There has been massive discussion about ‘Your customers are god’ in Japan where workers are exhausted because companies prioritize their customer’s satisfaction too much. Workers in Japan have been suffocated by this concept because this concept forces them to work extremely hard to make their customer happy at the expense of their well-being.

I had a little chat with friend of mine who used to work at Dentsu and he told me that one of the biggest reasons why workers at Dentsu worked extremely hard was because their client’s expectation is sometimes unrealistic in terms of timeline and quality, but they still have to meet or top that.

Let’s take delivery service providers as another example: with the advent of Amazon, some say delivery workers have to process 300 items per day. As a result, they have to work from 6 am up until 10 pm every day without having any lunch break, which can cause serious health issues to their employees.
The Flaw with Excessive Customer Centric
The major flaw of excessive customer centricity is that ignoring your workers well-being will ultimately backfire on your business.

From the delivery worker example I mentioned earlier, one of the drivers became flustrated and smashed the customer’s package because his customer wasn’t at home even though the customer specified the time for delivery, which made the driver come back again and doubled his job.

Who can blame this driver though, given he works 16 hours straight every day without any break and his customers show a lack of decency? Not to mention, this delivery company has now lost all credibility over one incident.

Balance Between Your Customers, Employees & Partners

My point is to keep balance among your customers, employees and partners to make your business sustainable to every stakeholder. Jeff Bezos said “I know for a fact, ten years from now, customers still like the low prices.” and it is very much true on one simple condition: as long as people don’t die for it.