Customer First? or Customer Only?

Been reading a lot lately, trying to get caught up after spending so much time in the trenches doing some real work.  Almost everywhere I turn I read about “Customer First”.  Putting the customer first, or ahead of everything else you do.  Why, there is even an entity in the UK that is called Customer First to ensure UK organizations remain true to their customers.  Closer to home, Continental Airlines has been talking about the great results of their Customer First initiative, as well as Northwest Airlines (which merged with Delta recently, another Customer First organization) and even an organization as distinct as the City of San Antonio has gotten on board.

With all these people you’d think that customer first is all it takes to succeed – but I would like to bring up a more interesting point: it is not about putting the customer first, it is about making the customer the ONLY reason for your existence.  Putting the customer first means that there are other things to distract you from your commitment to your customer.  Making the customer the only thing means that their needs will supersede all others.  It may seem a trivial difference, and hair-splitting semantically speaking, but think about it for a second…

Do you want to commit all your resources to making your customers happy – or just the ones you can spare?