If my dog were a customer who got exactly what he wanted, he would eat dozens of his favorite peanut-butter biscuits and spend the day on the couch. The returns would diminish quickly as he became unhealthy and ruined the furniture. Instead, I make choices in my canine experience investments that balance his wants with what’s best for his health and the equanimity of our household.

The same, on a more complex scale, should be true of investing in customer obsession. Functional leaders need to consider their company and their customers, employees, and partners in making decisions about how to support the journey to becoming an insights-driven, customer-led, fast, and connected B2B organization.

When More Is Not Necessarily Better

Customer obsession means putting the customer at the center of leadership, strategy, and operations. For most B2B companies, it’s a work in progress. Data from Forrester’s 2021 report, The State Of Customer Obsession In B2B Organizations (client access only) shows that 6% of respondents work for customer-obsessed organizations while 36% indicate that their organizations are customer-committed, the level of maturity right behind customer-obsessed.

Every functional leader in the B2B organization has an opportunity to consider how their team should deliver on customer obsession, which levers are at their disposal, and where they draw the line between productive investment and diminishing, or negative, returns. As our colleague Shar VanBoskirk notes, companies should manifest customer obsession in different ways. And these ways will play out differently across functions.


As B2B organizations mature and turn their focus from “new business only” to keeping and expanding their existing customer base, sales leaders routinely make decisions about coverage for account and customer success management. Although it might seem “customer-obsessed” to have the one-to-one coverage of an account manager and a customer success manager for every account, that isn’t scalable, profitable, or even necessary.

Sales leaders must weigh internal and external factors, such as account size, strategic importance, and the competitive landscape to structure optimal account team and digital approaches.


B2B buyers and customers have become more diverse and values-driven, leading to an increased focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies. Marketing leaders must carefully weigh how that shows up throughout their ecosystem of buyers, customers, partners, and employees. Spending resources to convey values-based messages that don’t resonate or even ring false to the customer base is a drain on the organization and can even repel current and potential customers: the very definition of “negative returns.”


Product managers routinely weigh financial, strategic, and go-to-market factors in determining where to focus resources on enhancements. These decisions start with understanding what customers truly need to be successful. One-hundred percent of respondents from customer-obsessed organizations say they have a “strong” understanding of what customers want; 39% of respondents from customer-aware organizations, the second-least-mature category above customer-naïve, say the same.

For example, a steady stream of updates and enhancements might seem customer-obsessed to an early-adopting base that embraces continuous change, but it would be disruptive and counterproductive to a more conservative customer base that prefers moderate change and lots of preparation time.

With various factors to consider, finding the right expression of customer obsession for your organization is far from easy. Forrester can help. To learn more, get in touch with us