Are Talk of “Hiring” and “Firing” Customers Customer-Centric?


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Nara Eechambadi’s recent post on Firing Customers: Is it Ever a Good Idea? got me thinking. In the light of my own recent post about How Customer Centric Are You? Three Simple Questions, it strikes me that talk of ‘hiring’ and ‘firing’ customers is de facto evidence of a lack of customer-centricity.

Hiring and firing customers is a tacit admission that customers are just resources, like land, labour and capital, that can be bought traded with impunity.

As McKinsey’s work on the War for Talent and the The 21st Century Organisation teaches us, the scarcity of knowledge workers means they can no longer be simply traded as any other resource. Instead, they must be acquired, developed and retained, all at great expense.

Surely, this is the same for customers; they too must be acquired, developed and retained, often at great expense. This requires a graduated relational view of customers, rather than an all or nothing view that the firing/firing language assumes.

As is often the case, the language companies use often betrays their inner values. Be wary of companies who talk of hiring and firing, whether that be of employees or customers.

What do you think? Are talk of hiring and firing customers customer centric? Or are they signs of a deeper company-centricity?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Customer-centric means literally, doing something the customer appreciates.

    “Hiring” and “firing” are customer-centric if the customer felt good about it, and perceived some value.

    If firing is done tactfully and enables the customer to find a genuinely better solution (this is commonly known as a referral) the customer should perceive it as helpful.

    The fact that something is good or bad to the business is irrelevant to whether it’s good or bad for the customer. But the essence of good business, I believe, is where there’s value for both parties. When the scales of value are unbalanced, something has to change.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  2. Graham,
    I used the term “hiring” customers to highlight that companies do have a choice in the customers they do business with. Making the choice is an important step in being customer-centric.
    I agree we need to think about the relational view of the customer. In fact, that’s the thrust of my most recent book. In the book I lay out a psycho-economic framework for profitability, sustainability and compelling customer relationship.
    Businesses often talk about acquiring and retaining customers. Customers don’t want to acquired and they certainly don’t want to be retained.
    The framework I propose involves attracting customers to your value proposition, connecting with them emotionally and logically and getting them engaged in the experience. Through repeated interactions that grow upon each other, the relationship builds value to the customer and the company accrues customer equity.
    John I. Todor, Ph.D., author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

  3. Bob

    I appreciate your promotion of all things customer-centric. Whatever customer-centricity really is!

    The real challenge that companies have is to balance being driven by customers with driving customers. Understanding the jobs customers are trying to do and the outcomes they are looking for has to be balanced against the company’s ability to deliver the outcomes and to create economic profit from doing so. As research by Cleland & Bruno has shown, this is a precarious balance that most companies struggle with.

    What’s good for a company is thus inextricably linked in the longer-term to what is good for their customers. And vice versa.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  4. John

    I am with you 100% on this one.

    Research by Tuli, Kohli & Bharadwaj published in the current Journal of Marketing highlights the importance of relationship-building activities before, during and after the sale.

    This is all part of a renaissance in thinking about relationships that is currently taking place; away from the flawed, inside-out, ‘relationship marketing’ view of the 1990s, where value is delivered at the point of sale and the customer was on their own afterwards, to an outside-in ‘relationship building’ view, where value is delivered as products are used throughout the product ownership lifecycle.

    Although this is common sense to many customers struggling to get a manufacturer to honour a warranty on a faulty product, it is surprisingly, shocking news to many companies who think their job is done once the product leaves the shop premises.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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