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Perspectives May 12, 2011

Forbes / Seven Signs of a Customer-Focused CEO

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“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” – Chinese proverb

The next generation of great companies will be led by CEOs who are serious about great customer service. The quality of a company’s customer service matters as much as the quality of its code. Algorithms can fail, patents can expire, but a reputation for great service endures.

The fundamental trait of the ideal Silicon Valley start-up has long been scalability. A ten-person team can build and deliver a product to ten million people, and that’s a beautiful thing. But there are times in business when you need to do things that do not scale—times when good, old-fashioned human touch is essential to address customers’ needs.

I see hundreds of new consumer Internet business presentations each year. A growing percentage of entrepreneurs are now adding “World Class Customer Service” as a bullet point in their investor presentations. It’s a buzzword of the times, perhaps inspired by the success stories of recently acquired companies such as Zappos and Diapers.com—strong businesses built on foundations of top-tier customer service. I’m hopeful that we will experience a generation of entrepreneurs who make customer service a priority. But great customer service requires more than a bullet point on a slide. It has to start with a deep understanding and commitment by the CEO. Read more on Forbes. 

“The quality of a company’s customer service matters as much as the quality of its code. Algorithms can fail, patents can expire, but a reputation for great service endures.”