Cultivating a Customer-First Mindset: 6 Ways to Leave a Lasting Impression

Do you remember Circuit City?  Probably not.  Unless you stopped buying electronics in 2009 when the company turned off its lights for the last time.

How about Best Buy?  Even though you can purchase the same goods by tapping a few icons on your smartphone – Best Buy still has a line at the checkout. 

Why is one electronics store still alive (and worth over $15 billion!! 🤯) while the other is only a distant, fading memory?  The answer is complex, multifaceted, and nuanced, of course.  But one factor is undeniably prevalent.

Customer service. 

In 2002, Best Buy purchased Geek Squad.  Over 20 years later, the Geek Squad is a massive selling point for people parting with their hard-earned cash.  Circuit City, on the other hand, took the exact opposite approach. 

The former electronics giant replaced 3,400 experienced salespeople with 2,100 lower-paid hourly workers to reduce operating expenses.  Predictably, customer complaints skyrocketed – and Circuit City had their operations reduced to nothing. 

Ready to learn from this modern parable?  Let’s put a customer-first mindset to work for you!

Quality Customer Service is Costly

Putting customers first isn’t a shortcut, quick fix, or magic pill.  It’s hard work.  It requires time, emotional energy, sacrifice – and money.  But as the famous saying goes, “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.” 

Legitimately putting customers first requires more than techniques.  It’s a mindset, an attitude, a priority.  Valuing the human beings on the other end of the transaction demands something deeper than impressive interpersonal skills. 

Consider the difference between sympathy and empathy. 

Most people can learn to act sympathetically, at least for brief interactions.  But feeling what others feel, deeply understanding their situation and concerns, and then following through with actions that may be costly – that’s a customer-first mindset. 

Poor Customer Service Costs Even More

While implementing a customer-first mindset is costly – not putting customers first will cost even more.  Businesses like Circuit City closed their doors, at least in part, because they didn’t keep pace with other companies’ customer service.  

By almost every available metric, customer acquisition costs more than customer retention.  In some cases, acquisition costs seven times more than retention!  Further, losing customers costs companies almost $250 per customer, requiring them to spend even more to acquire more. 

But the cost of not putting customers first presses past pennies.  It permeates the culture of your business.  And that can be catastrophic. 

A recent Gallup survey found that a staggering 60% of people are emotionally disengaged from their work and that nearly 20% say they are miserable in their jobs!  Is that how you want your team to feel when they clock in on Monday? 

Is that the attitude you want to interface with your clients?  Even if you offer exceptional services at competitive prices, negative attitudes will push people away. 

Great work with a poor attitude is replaceable.  But great work with great customer experience leaves a lasting impression.

6 Steps to Become a Customer-Minded Brand

Business is always personal.  Working with a customer-first mindset will bolster your brand beyond the bottom line.  Here are five ways to cultivate a customer-first mindset in your business.     

1. Cultivate A Culture Of Caring Among Your Team members 

Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  If you want your customers to be well cared for, you must build a team that feels well cared for.  

How does that happen?  You must value and respect your team beyond what they produce or achieve.  Believe the best about them and empower your team to reach their fullest potential.   You can “call them up,” instead of “calling them out.”  Here’s how:

  • Encourage your team with positive affirmation whenever possible
  • Equip them with the tools and training they need to succeed
  • Empower them to use their skills to achieve their potential

If you believe the best about your team, then you will be eager to bring out their best qualities by positioning them in the right role.  Speak highly of your team to clients and give them credit for their expertise.

Developing a meaningful culture of care also requires sprinkling in challenging conversations when appropriate.  And that must go both ways.  Invite meaningful feedback from your team and offer constructive criticism as needed. 

Caring for people in these ways builds trust and respect.  It creates a culture where people can safely communicate transparently.  When your team works in this culture, then caring for customers will come naturally.    

2. Embrace a Customer-First Mindset

Great work with a poor attitude is replaceable.  But great work with great customer experience leaves a lasting impression.  Anyone can provide a service.  What does it look like to position your brand with a client-first mindset? 

  • Put yourself in your client’s shoes
  • View yourself as a strategic partner
  • Take your clients’ success personally

Invest your time and resources in special ways to help customers grow.  Get creative.  Go above and beyond.  Study industry trends and norms to see how you can differentiate your brand to serve your customers in ways that others aren’t.  

customer first mindset

3. Listen Well to Put Customers First

Position yourself as a learner in the business relationship.  Just like you are an expert in your field, respect the fact that your clients are experts in theirs. 

Not only do they have a better understanding of their industry than you do, but they embrace the vision and values of their company in a way you can’t. 

Isn’t this how you feel about your business?  You know what your brand does – and why you do it.  Treat your customers accordingly. 

  • Invest your time getting to understand your customer
  • Get curious about their vision, mission, and values
  • Dig deep enough to understand what they offer – and – who they offer it to
  • Work to understand their pain points – and – the pain points of their clients

Their challenges are now your challenges. Gary Vaynerchuk said it well: “The best marketing strategy ever: care”

Demonstrate a stronger desire to listen than to speak. This is especially important in meetings.  If you see yourself as a learner and strategic partner, then your primary contribution in meetings ought to focus on the following:

  • Curiosity
  • Clarity
  • Care
When you listen well, you will gain valuable information that will empower you to provide a top-level service – and your clients will feel cared for. 

4. Encourage Healthy Feedback and Own your Mistakes

To err is human.  No way around it.  You may be an expert, but that doesn’t make you perfect.   And you can get better.  After getting knocked out of the playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo, from the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, provided a brilliant answer regarding success and failure. 

“Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal — which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, provide a house for them, or take care of your parents. You work towards a goal — it’s not a failure. It’s steps to success.”

One of the best ways your brand can take steps to success in customer service is by asking for and encouraging honest feedback from your clients.  When mistakes are inevitably made, just own it.  Don’t make excuses or offer justifications. 

Your clients will feel how much you respect and care for them when you are willing to own your mistakes without shifting responsibility. 

5. Exemplify Customer Care by Being Responsive and Accessible

Maybe the entire world suffers from digital fatigue.   That can be used to your advantage.  Many companies lose business opportunities simply because they don’t reply to clients – or potential clients – within a reasonable timeframe. 

Dealing with unresponsive vendors is frustrating.  It makes you feel as though you don’t matter to them.  And if that feeling lasts long enough, you’ll take your business elsewhere.

Now, most companies understand that they are not your only client.  They understand that you have other obligations and responsibilities and typically don’t expect an immediate response.  Unless they are in a crisis. 

However, communication and accessibility are essential for every relationship, including business relationships.  Here are a few ways you can ensure your accessibility for your clients.

  • Schedule daily time to respond to client communication
  • Reply to messages, even if simply to inform your client that you need to respond later
  • Hire administrative support if needed
  • Don’t take on more clients than you can care for 

6.  Show Customer Loyalty by Putting them First in Real Life

When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you card in the mail?  It feels good, doesn’t it?  Often, it’s the little things that speak the loudest. 

Customers will know you care about them and their success when you go out of your way to demonstrate gratitude and support.  It doesn’t have to take much.  Consider taking the following steps to let your clients know you care about them. 

  • Communicate gratitude in meetings and through electronic communication
  • Send thank you cards
  • Give meaningful gifts
  • Support clients online
  • Purchase their services/products

Create a Comprehensive Customer First Business Strategy Today!

A customer-first mindset has always been foundational for a successful business.  After all, isn’t the customer always right? 

The importance of customer service has never been more urgent.  With the dawn of the AI revolution, human connection, empathy, and partnership can differentiate you from the crowd. 

With over 20 years of experience, the team at JS-Interactive is here to help you build a comprehensive customer-first business strategy.  From interpersonal relationships to SEO strategies, we have the skills and experience you need to help your customers thrive. 

Reach out today for a free 30-minute consultation so that we can get to know each other!


Justin Staples

For 15 years, Justin has guided businesses on a transformative journey through strategic marketing and design to craft their unique online identity.