3 min read

Customer Obsession in the Age of the Customer

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Customer focus is great. But customer obsession is even better.

We all, even in the social good space, talk about being customer-first—or, in our case, supporter-first. But if you think that means customer-obsessed, you’d be mistaken. 

Customer obsession means knowing your customers as well as, if not better than, they know themselves. It means looking outside our organizations to design experiences from the outside-in, to move away from what we need towards what our customers need. It’s a shift in perspective and purpose to focus on creating happy customers, which requires prioritizing relationships over transactions. A transaction-driven approach, focused on the monetary contributions customers can make to our worthy organizations and causes, is not customer obsession. It is an obsession with customers. 

Creating contented, long-term, committed customers or supporters has everything to do with customer experience (CX). Customer-obsessed organizations know their customers to the point where they can not only predict their experiences, but also truly influence them. Many nonprofits could benefit from taking a page out of the for-profit handbook and up their experiential quotient.

According to an Adweek and Accenture Interactive study, 80% of brands think they deliver a superior customer experience. But only 8% of their customers agree. That’s a huge disconnect between what organizations think they deliver and what they actually do. It’s time to bridge that gap, to think about what we can do for our customers rather than what they can do for us.

Because 57% of people will stop supporting a nonprofit organization because another provided a better experience. We in the social good space are no longer competing against just each other. In this uber-connected world, we are competing with every other experience a customer has. And if it’s better elsewhere, they will go there. Audiences crave interaction and meaning. They want you to make them feel good. They come for the cause but stay for the experience. 

Experiences define what we perceive to be valuable to us and our goals and what we decide to do next. When people make choices today, they no longer take linear, predictable, easily influenced paths. Instead, they build relationships with companies and organizations in a non-linear, difficult to predict fashion. They likely conduct independent research, talk to friends, do more research, see an advertisement online, research on social, change their minds entirely, and then – seemingly at random – make the choice to engage. Simply put, customers have increased access to information and elevated expectations of what your organization can do. For them.

The “new normal” requires a degree of connectedness and compassion that’s up close and personal. Customer experience has gone beyond tangible touchpoints and objective decision-making. It’s about customer expectations and perceptions, about memorable and personal experiences that make them come back for more. It’s about heart and empathy.

We need to think differently about how to prioritize relationships over transactions. That means thinking about your audiences’ emotional and intellectual reactions during any engagement they have with you. It requires delivering the right mix of utility and emotional value. It means showing up when and where they need you with consistency and making every interaction memorable.

So how do we get there? Here are a few good places to start:


  • Survey your supporters. Using simple survey tools such Survey Monkey, Google Forms, or Typeform can help you better understand what your customers want, need, and think.
  • Social listening. Listening to what your customers are saying to each other online, on social media, in reviews and DMs is crucial to truly understanding their world. Especially keep your ears open for common ground. Customer obsession is less about differentiation from competitors and more about finding mutual themes with your customers. Social listening is key to that. 
  • Build your campaigns to start a dialogue. Encourage content co-creation, make shareable content, and reach out to your biggest fans to make them active supporters.

Are you interested in exploring how customer obsession can help future-proof your organization? Our experts are ready for you. Let’s connect.