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For most businesses, customers are the ultimate arbiters of success. However, what if you work in a business whose audience is captive in some way such as:

  • The London Underground (where there is no viable alternative)

  • New home builders (whose business is largely based on a location-driven, one off purchase and financial incentives such as help to buy)

  • Industrial conglomerates (where revenue is generated largely elsewhere in the business)

In these cases, a business might ask itself what is the point of being customer-centric beyond the notion of trying to extract as much value as possible from a customer base?

But when decisions are made consistently with little thought to what the win:win for customer and company could be, customer reputation and sentiment often suffers. In reputational terms, who wants to be the builder who hides his logo on his uniform from neighbours as he leaves for work each morning? Who wants to be the underground worker who gets abused by an irate commuter? Who wants to be the person who glosses over the Bank they work for in the pub? And more functionally, who wants to be the HR director responsible for attracting the best talent in a competitive market with a reputation that is hard to sell?

Earlier this year Facebook released a study on what motivates their employees. Three factors emerged as equally important: Cause, Career, Community. Cause is interesting in this ‘captive customer’ context. It suggests that even though immediate financial success may not be dependent on it, your ability to compete in areas like recruitment means that there is business value in not settling for the sub-standard or simply satisfactory. If your employee brand can’t win with your reputation, you’ll have to attract the talent in other ways which will undoubtedly cost.

In short, it makes business sense to build desirability via a great reputation with customers otherwise you may have to pay a high tax to recruit employees to your business

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