The habits of leading customer centric businesses – Interview with Bob Thompson


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Today’s interview is with Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink Corp. and Founder/Editor-in-Chief of, the world’s largest community dedicated to customer-centric business. Bob’s also just authored a book: Hooked On Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies and joins me today to talk about the book, what he thinks being customer centric really means and the five habits of successful firms.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Mobile marketing, customer retention and customers expecting to be known – Interview with Jess Stephens of TagPoints – and is number one-hundred and five in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Hooked On Customers - Bob ThompsonHere are the highlights of my interview with Bob:

  • The book is the culmination of 15 years worth of research into customer centric management.
  • A customer centric business creates value for it’s customers (and in doing so creates customer loyalty) in a way that it eventually creates value for the company and it’s stakeholders.
  • A lot of companies try to ‘own’ this space but there is little agreement on what being customer centric really means.
  • The debate ranges from people thinking that customer centricity is a really bad idea, as it implies that you should to anything that the customer wants no matter what it does to your business, to the other extreme where companies are focused on extracting as much value as possible from the customer.
  • ‘Value’ is subjective term which is also much debated.
  • Surely, the question should be: ‘value’ for who?
  • In truly customer centric firms, they understand that ‘value’ is a two-way exchange and they effectively run their firms such that they manage to deliver value to their customers and themselves and achieve the right balance over time.
  • However, Bob tries not to get hung up on definitions in the book and takes a lead from firms that are producing the sort of results that others aspire to and takes his lead from them. It’s not about the start (or the definition), it’s about the journey, as being customer centric and striking the value balance will be different for different firms.
  • The reason that Bob uses the word ‘habit’ is that a habit is different from a behaviour, as it is something that you do repeatedly and subconsciously day to day.
  • Bob lists the 5 habits as: listen, think, empower, create, and delight.
  • Listen is all about listening to your customers and understanding what they really value.
  • Think is all about how man and machine work together to use data and analytics to make sound, fact-based decisions.
  • Empower is all about giving employees the authority, the resources and the responsibility to be able to do the things that they need to do to serve and please customers.
  • Create is all about innovation and continually creating new value for customers, whether they ask for it or not.
  • Delight is all about continually pushing to exceed customers expectations.
  • The book goes into these habits in a lot more detail through the use of case studies and examples from leading companies that are putting the habits to work.
  • The last two habits (create and delight) are generally the hardest to implement as they require companies to take risks and fail as part of their process and culture.
  • Bob provides an example of Intuit that found that their use of NPS only told them what problems they should be fixing and it was only when they started to develop the habits of Create and Delight did it allow them to move on and grow and develop further.
  • Different companies will need to develop the different habits depending on their stage of maturity and development but all companies will need to develop them all if they want to grow into a sizeable and sustainable business.
  • Bob explains this in terms of the 4-stage maturity model (targeted, responsive, engaged and inspired) that he has developed.
  • He has found that all five habits are at work across all of the stages but that when you get to the latter stages of the model you see more of the habits: Create and Delight.
  • Most companies are at stage 1 (targeted) and are only focused on delivering to customers what they think that their customers want.
  • The logical place to start on a customer centric journey is to start with going to your customers and understanding what is on their minds, what motivates them and how are you doing with them.
  • But, you can’t stop there. You have to act and do something with the information that you gather.

About Bob (adapted from his CustomerThink bio)

Bob ThompsonBob Thompson is CEO of CustomerThink Corp., an independent research and publishing firm focused on customer-centric business management, and Founder/Editor-in-Chief of, the world’s largest community dedicated to customer-centric business. Thompson is a popular international keynote speaker, blogger and author.

Do check out his book: Hooked On Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies (April 2014) and Also, you can say hi on Twitter @customerthink and @Bob_Thompson and connect with Bob too on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: M.Ryan Photography via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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