Article - Customer is King - Revisited

book courses & learning resources Sep 01, 2021

READ: 2 mins
AUTHOR: Robert Craven

Unbelievably, I wrote Customer Is King – How to Exceed Their Expectations nearly 20 years ago.

When I did an updated version I felt that nothing had changed.

And agencies are among the worst for not getting the Customer is King philosophy (despite the weasel words on their websites).

We still do the customer experience talk, but fail to execute on delivery.


I first wrote Customer is King in 2001. Here are my summary notes after I re-read the book:

  • Back in 2001, few people took ‘customer service’ and the ‘customer experience’ too seriously. For some it is now an act of faith! We are awash with CEx (Customer Experience) stats…
  • The original book reads like a marketing book. And so it should. Marketing = Customers. End of.
  • Everything has changed. The ubiquity of the internet has changed the speed, depth, breadth and cost of communication for businesses and their customers.
  • Nothing has changed. What people want is still the old-fashioned stuff: courtesy, honesty, integrity, reliability.
  • Relationships vs transactions. For many products we simply want a relationship with the vendor; for others, we just want the cheapest. The trick is to know who wants what and when.
  • So few people get it right... even in a post-pandemic recession when it is more important than ever, so few simply ‘get it’.
  • The same case studies of ‘best practice’ still get trotted out endlessly. Southwest Airlines, Disney, Ritz Carlton, Virgin Business Class, Zappos.
  • Has much changed in 20 years? I would love to say ‘yes’ but I don't think much has changed.
  • The internet and the rise of social media have changed everything. It has meant that it is easier and cheaper than ever before to get close to the customer. Or has it?
  • However, the basic problem is still the same... most agencies simply do not see customer service as their number one priority. They keep measuring profit first.
  • There is a new body of literature. Does it help us to understand the new world?
  • The book is just a rant from a grumpy old man. Has anything changed? For the better?
  • Is the customer experience the next competitive battleground?


Has much changed in 20 years?

I would love to say ‘yes’ but actually I don't think much has changed. I often seem to be writing about the same subjects:

  • Agencies are just above estate agents in the list of most loved professionals.
  • Marketing as a profession and as an industry seems to under-deliver for most companies.
  • Don’t compete on price.
  • Lots of companies talk up customer relationships. However, in reality, they are still obsessed with profit first (and it shows).
  • There is still not enough serious engagement with customers.
  • Customers feel constantly let down and disappointed as the 'promises' fail to materialise yet again. (When will they ever learn?)


It seems blindingly obvious (to me) that business is all about trust. Trust is why customers buy from us and why they return. And yet the needs of the customer are not at the forefront of the agency’s mind.

The list of what we sell to them (latest tech, fast, well-trained, friendly) is not the same as the list of what they want to buy from us (reliable, more sales, great ROI). And how agencies see themselves. “Everyone loves us” is not the same as how the customer sees you (unreliable, pretentious, immature, unbusinesslike).

Happy customers create happy staff and happy bank managers. We know that.

We also know that all great agencies have an awesome Bus Dev Machine and an awesome Delivery Machine. And yet most agencies miss the point that the focus of all this awesomeness should be the customer.

Unhappy customers is not a sustainable position to hold.

Why wouldn’t you do everything to make your customers happy? 

It is no longer enough to have satisfied customers. They will move on at the first sight of a better price or a sexy presentation. You need to have customers who are your raving fans, who love what you do and what you do for their businesses.

It is time to sort the customer issue once and for all. Otherwise, agencies will sink further in the eyes of potential customers and become less respected. Who wants that?