Admit you have a problem: The first step to recovery is to admit that you are organization-centric. Say it: "We're organization-centric."Take off your coat. You can hang it over there. The evenings are closing in, aren't they? Have a seat. Have a seat. Tea or coffee? Black or white? I like mine black too. Sugar?
First off, let me tell you that you're not alone. I have never met an organization that didn't suffer from some form of organization-centricity. Your symptoms are mild in comparison to some of the cases I come across. Why, last week I had a client that couldn't finish a sentence without a we-we.
They say that the humans have been on this planet for about five million years. Well, for 4,990,000 of those years we survived in small groups. We were described as "shy and murderous". If we saw a stranger, our impulse was to run from them or murder them. Sure, sure, we still do that today, but not nearly as much as we used to.
The organization is a group. The customer is a stranger. The customer is not like us. We are genetically programmed to react negatively to the stranger. In the ancient jungle, that was useful. When we came across something or someone that was unfamiliar we had to make fast, gut-instinct choices: Friend or foe? Fight or flight?
So, it is perfectly "natural" to be organization-centric. It is the most natural thing in the world to be. It is normal. What I'm asking you to be is abnormal. I'm asking you to think of the customer first. That is a very hard thing to do. Every day you'll have to work on it.
But why bother? Why do we have to pay this pesky customer so much attention today?
Some blame the Web. It's given customers power they never really had before. It's put knowledge at their fingertips-just a click away. And knowledge is power, they all say. But is it? No, I don't think so. The application of knowledge-the use of knowledge-is where power lies. And with the Web, customers have an abundance of knowledge to help them make decisions.
Think of it like gut instinct in reverse. Instead of fight or flight, it's now will I stay or will I go? Only it's the customer making the decision-in an instinct. The impatient, attention-deficit-syndrome customer comes to your website and makes a gut instinct decision of whether your website is any good or not. To succeed, you've got to suppress your gut instinct and embrace the gut instinct of your customer.
Don't let this get you down. You clearly want to do the right thing. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. You have made the first step, which means you've thought a lot about this. You know that to survive and thrive in the information jungle, you must put the customer first.
You must put the customer first not because it's the "right" thing to do. You must put the customer first because if you don't, the customer will Back-button you from their sight and Delete you from their consciousness.
So, repeat slowly after me: "Customer-centric, not organization-centric â€¦customer-centric, not organization-centric â€¦customer-centric, not organization-centric."
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.