Why Customer Obsession Is Important

At Forrester, we spend a lot of time talking about customer obsession. In fact, it’s at the core of everything we do — and with good reason. Customer obsession, which we define as putting the customer at the center of your leadership, strategy, and operations, enables your company to sense and respond to market circumstances. This flexibility ensures customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and revenue growth in any economic climate. Our research tells us that customer-obsessed companies report two times higher revenue growth, profitability, and customer retention than those that are not customer obsessed. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Customer obsession helps companies survive and thrive.

Investing in customer obsession yields at least a 700% ROI over 12 years.


Customer obsession maximizes the value a business creates for its key customers — in order get value back from customers to the business. Customers who get value from their relationship with a business exhibit a greater propensity to spend and remain loyal to the brand.

While in the past a strong economy might have camouflaged the danger of customer-ignorant strategies, those days are now gone. As businesses are continually faced with uncertain market conditions and the demands of empowered customers, there are three key ways that customer obsession is important and supports sustained growth. It:

  1. Enables adaptability. Businesses with persistent customer insights can innovate to flex their business models, customer relationships, and employee experiences as the world shifts. This makes them better able to withstand budget cuts and layoffs than customer-naïve competitors. Take King Arthur Flour, for example. Customer empathy and access to real-time customer feedback helped IT retrench operations to mill more flour and keep retail staff working even when the pandemic shutdown created a burst of demand and closed its gift shop.
  2. Supports testing of new models. Customer-obsessed companies earn the goodwill they need to experiment and not lose customers. This brand energy sustains business when companies modify products, distribution, or delivery models — something that will become a regular necessity in the long term. Take Escapology, for example. While COVID-19 closed the doors of many escape room companies, Escapology pivoted to web-based escape rooms, offering seamless virtual team-building activities. Not only did Escapology survive the pandemic, but it continues to experience year-over-year growth.
  3. Builds liquidity. The fact is that customer-obsessed operations are cheaper and more efficient to run. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona fixed its online payments service and member portal and saved $1.9 million. Target offered same-day, in-store pickup and cut distribution costs by 40%. Telstra consolidated its service platforms, and call center volumes dropped 9%.


On the flip side, not investing in customer obsession creates risk.

Customer obsession requires shifting mindsets, pivoting work tasks, recalibrating performance, and finding funding — all of which can be challenging and costly. But the price you pay when you are not customer-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected could be far greater. When you choose to stand still, you:

  • Lose customer goodwill. This is easy to see in something like the high volumes of marketing emails that people get daily. Customers expect personal, intimate communication, yet marketers blast out multiple emails a day without any sensitivity to who the recipient is or how or why they got on the receiving end of the outreach. When disconnects like this happen, customers lose trust in the brand. Lost trust is hard to restore and leads to declining retention, increased acquisition costs, limited upsell potential, and loss of brand equity.
  • Face regulatory fines. There are real financial penalties associated with handling customer data poorly and targeting individuals based on sensitive social, demographic, or economic indicators.
  • Suffer waste. The COVID-19 years showed that companies with sluggish processes that don’t have a dynamic pulse on customer information can’t flex to changing market conditions. This costs budget and time. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, almost went bankrupt due to the challenges of the pandemic.


Customer obsession changes the way you think and operate.

Companies who understand why customer obsession is important realize a whole-scale shift in their strategy and operations. True customer obsession should:

  • Guide business strategy. A customer obsession roadmap should include a vision, diligence around how day-to-day work changes, employee training, and investment in culture. It will require a deep dive into your company’s processes, culture, people, metrics, structure, and technology strategy.
  • Perpetuate a way of working. Those that ask, “How long does it take to become customer obsessed?” don’t understand that customer obsession is not an assignment to tackle and then cross off. Rather, it institutes a mindset and way of working that uses customer consideration to improve product, brand, and process.
  • Transform leadership, strategy, and operations. Critical changes to a firm’s work tasks won’t stick without good leaders who motivate their teams toward clear, customer-centric visions.


Ritz-Carlton general managers personally greet every new hire to model the brand’s service promise.


  • Amplify business performance. Customer obsession doesn’t replace sound business fundamentals like functional products, accessible channels, or a way to make money. Nor is it a singular growth driver. Of course, product innovation, brand heft, sales incentives, and a global pandemic can also impact business success. Customer obsession augments any growth model by maximizing its relevance to what customers value.


Timberland has grown revenues consistently since 2016, when it redesigned its products, wholesale partnerships, and advertising creative to fit its customers’ focus on style over utility.


Further Reading

As market dynamics continue to shift and customers around the world become increasingly empowered, customer obsession has become a key to sustained growth. For more on why customer obsession matters, check out:


Forrester can help you build a customer-obsessed enterprise.

Customer obsession is an easy concept to get behind but can be difficult to put into action. At Forrester, customer obsession is at the core of everything we do. We can help you achieve customer obsession to fuel sustained growth.

Forrester’s portfolio of offerings is informed by our exclusive research and insights, designed to help you build a customer-obsessed enterprise. Contact us to learn more.


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