5 Things every CEO needs to know about their customers

Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper · 5 min read

When people think about CEOs, they generally think about high-up decision makers with little insights or knowledge of what happens in the day-to-day work of most employees.

That isn’t how it should be, though—in order for a CEO to best understand how to grow the company, they need to understand what happens each day. You can’t make successful decisions about how to change things without knowing what you are already doing and how it’s working for you.

Take, for example, this quote from Lee Redden at Blue River Technology about the importance of paying attention to customer feedback: “the customers had way more insights than we had. They had been thinking about their own problems for so long…If you just go out and try to sell maybe you’ll find some buyers, but you won’t be learning about what you should be doing along the way.”

Customers are integrally important to the success of a business. Even more important is customer focus, and understanding exactly where you stand and need to go to be successful. Customer focus comes from the top down and, as nice as it is for CEOs to pay lip-service to the importance of customer experience (CX), it means even more when they are able to dive in and get their hands dirty.

After all, CX doesn’t just benefit your support team, it helps boost company-wide metrics like:

  • Churn
  • Customer loyalty
  • Brand reputation
  • Production cost

All of those four have the power to impact key performance metrics across all teams within a company, and thus the company’s success as a whole. It’s because of that that it is integral for CEOs to have their thumb on the pulse of key support and customer-focused aspects of the business. Here’s a list of the 5 aspects that we think are the most valuable.

customer-focused contentCustomer personas

“Customer personas” is typically marketing jargon for the types of customers you have and what they find to be the most valuable or important aspects of your product. However, customer personas are also incredibly impactful for support.

Customer personas help you understand the motivation of the person that you are talking to, as well as their demographic as a whole. They help you customize support strategies and methods in order to best suit your users’ needs, and can also help you get a heads up on where each individual customer is likely going to try to go with your product.

As a CEO, you should understand the people that are using your product. Going one step further, you should understand why they are using your product, what they want to get out of it, and how you can best help them achieve their goals. When considering any new additions to your product or a shift in company strategy, having the background of your main customer personas and what they care about can help you make choices that boost the stickiness of your product, rather than drive valuable users away.

customer-focused contentTop & Problem Customers

Did you know that 96% of unhappy customers won’t even take the time to respond to you and that, of that percentage, only 5% of them will continue using your product without silently churning? A lot of companies take time and effort to focus on their top few clients, but it turns out that paying attention to your problem customers could be even better.

The frustrated customers that take the time to reach out to you care enough about your product to go out of their way and let you know that they’re feeling upset. You have their loyalty, and have the potential to turn them into a star customer if you can just rectify their problem.

Knowing who is responsible for sending in the most tickets, who gives the most negative reviews of your support or product, and which clients are the most vocal about their frustration is an important metric for any CEO to know. After all, armed with that information, you know who is going to be the most impactful to try to reach out to. You also have the perspective of a demographic that, largely, doesn’t want to give you the time of day.

Conversely, knowing who your top customers are, both via sales and support, can help you keep valuable and important users from churning. CEOs that know who these key players are on either side are in prime position to make a lasting impact on customer churn and happiness—metrics that both bubble up into larger, company-wide reports.

seasonal rush
Trends in volume

As a CEO, it may seem out of scope to have an understanding of the volume of inquiries to your various support channels. But, this information is actually a valuable thumb on the pulse of the productivity of your business.

With a benchmark on how much your support team usually sees, you can start to identify busy seasons and see the direct impact of pricing changes or implementations with your product. Knowing when your users are most active can help you plan important company-wide initiatives like product launches that have maximum efficacy. Similarly, knowing when quiet periods are can help you understand when some much-needed marketing initiatives could drum up some additional user excitement.

It also helps you to determine what your staffing needs are going to be like. You already have the historical data of how many people you hired last year.

Take the time to compare growth in volume from last year to the current one. Then, if you can match that up with your hiring from the previous year, you will have a data-driven approach to understanding what the staffing needs of your support organization might be moving forward and how much budget you can expect to use.

customer experienceCustomer perception

A lot of people think that they know what their customers feel about their product, but are actually surprised once they go and review survey responses like Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort. This should never be the case with a company’s CEO.

To put this in money terms: 80% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience and lowering your customer churn rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25% to 125%. If you are meant to be heading up a company and driving it to success, failing to focus on numbers that can help you drive customer experience and lower churn seems like a rookie move.

Instead of just assuming that you know how your customers are feeling, look at the hard, qualitative and quantitative responses to your surveys and hear it right from the horse’s mouth.


When people think of the CEO, they often think of someone disconnected from the rest of the company except for a broad overview of team function. For your company to be the most successful it can be, though, it’s important to have some knowledge of the work that’s taking place on the ground: specifically when it comes to your customers and how they are engaging with you.

Take the time to get to know your problem and star customers, as well as what kinds of constructive or positive insights they have for your team. Know what trends you are seeing with your customers, as well as the types of customers that you commonly cater to, and the volume that you see from them over the course of the year.

Keeping your thumb on the pulse of key customer metrics like this will help drive loyalty, drop churn, and maintain a happy, healthy customer base.

How did you like this blog?


Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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