Which of these 3 orientations are you taking towards customer experience and customer-centricity?


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Job, Career, or Calling?

For some time I have been grappling with how to accurately convey the various ways that a person, a team, an organisation, can orient towards the customer experience and customer-centricity. In the past I have thought about it in terms of tactics, strategy and philosophy. And I am not sure that I have been able to convey what I wished to convey. Given our taken for granted listening I suspect most of you tuned out philosophy as soon as you heard it – philosophy has no place in business right? Today I wish to share with you another way of viewing the orientation, the stance, that you can take towards customer experience and customer-centricity.

I came across this passage from Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage which opened a new horizon for me and I wish to share it with you:

“Yale psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski …….. has found that employees have one of three “work orientations” or mindsets about our work. We view our work as Job, a Career, or a Calling. People with a ‘job’ see their work as a chore and their paycheck as the reward. They work because they have to …… By contrast, people who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed….. Finally, people with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, the people with the calling orientation not only find the work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it. And as a result, these are the people who are generally more likely to get ahead.”

What orientations have I encountered on my travels across the business landscape?

It occurs to me that many, if not most, approach customer experience and customer-centricity as a chore/burden that has been placed upon them through the customer revolution. These folks would prefer, at the fundamental emotional level, if business went back to the good old days when customers were powerless and businesses had the upper hand. So they act grudgingly and minimally – to do the minimum that they think they have to to do to stay in the game of business. Put differently, the extent of their ambition is to be on par with their competitors. Why? Because customer experience and customer-centricity shows up as effort and they have no desire to do more than that which is necessary. This orientation smacks of the Job orientation and the key driver/motivation is fear. Fear of declining revenues, smaller profit margins, a tanking share prices. And ultimately the fear of irrelevance and what that brings with it.

There are a much smaller number of folks (people, teams, organisations) who approach customer experience and customer-centricity in terms of the Career orientation. These are the folks that think/act strategically. They take the time to think about what customer experience means to them, their customers, their organisation, their industry. And they are committed to being ahead of the pack, their competitors. The driver is a combination of greed & ambition: to be the most successful and reap the rewards, especially the financial rewards, that come with being the leader of the pack. Would it be fair for me to characterise American Express this way? I suspect that Apple, under Tim Cook, has fallen into this category. And certainly, Jeff Bezos/Amazon show up that way for me. Does Virgin also fall under this category?

Who is approaching customer experience and customer-centricity as a Calling? I have yet, personally, to come across a leadership team/organisation where customer experience and customer-centricity shows up as a Calling. Reading through the literature it occurs to me that Tony Hsieh and Zappos fall into this category. And so does USAA. Did Apple under Steve Jobs (the second time around) also fall under this category? And is it possible that John Lewis is to be found here?

And finally

For me, personally, the work that I do on customer experience, customer-centricity and leadership occurs as a Calling. The blogs that I write, including this one, occur as manifestations of this calling. How does the whole Customer thing show up/occur for you? Job, Career, Calling?

And if you are intimately familiar with the companies that I have mentioned in this post then I would love to hear your thoughts. Have I classified them correctly or incorrectly?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Maz –

    Speaking both personally and professionally, everything about providing value-based direction for companies to help them optimize customer centricity, and understanding/leveraging the ever-changing dynamics of customer decision-making, has long been a calling. Incidentally, to your list of individuals and companies identified as customer centricity exemplars, I’d add Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles (www.zanes.com). Regards.


  2. Hello Michael

    Many thanks for entering into a conversation and great to know that the whole customer/value domain shows up as a calling for you!

    Thanks for pointing me towards Chris Zane and Zane’s Cycles. I have read Chris’ book Reinventing The Wheel and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And I am in agreement with you that this person/organisation exemplifies customer-centricity. What I cannot come to a conclusion on is this: whether it should be in the ‘calling’ or ‘career’ bucket. What do you think?


  3. …Socrates is asked to monitor a debate over whether public speaking should be considered an art or a science, and then provide his own opinion. His conclusion is that public speaking is like cooking, it’s a knack developed over a lifetime, blending both art and science. I have similar perspectives about customer-centricity. We have come to understand the basic concepts for making, and keeping, customer-centricity a core enterprise focus; but, the dynamics for doing so are ever-evolving and continuously changing. So, for those of us who are both fascinated by the many rewards provided by having a strong customer-centric orientatioin and immersed in helping companies reach that valuable goal, being successful and effective at it is also a knack developed and honed over a professional lifetime, i.e. a career and a calling.

  4. Hello Michael
    I thank you for your considered and wise answer. And I wish you the very best. I am looking forward to our next conversation.



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