By R. Christopher Haines, President and CEO

Do you think enough companies use this question to drive their businesses? I don’t. Especially IT companies.

Many IT companies have competing agendas. Management has profit goals. Sales and marketing have revenue goals. Rank and file programmers have the goal of doing things their own way. None of them specifies customer satisfaction as a primary goal. Why?

I recently heard the story of a Silicon Valley startup from a few years back in which the customer drove everything. This was somewhat anomalous for a software company.

Every time the developers went on a rant about how things should be done, their supervisor asked, “What does this mean for the customer?” When management wanted to change something, it was asked what the change meant for the customer.

This was a big surprise to me because I see so many software companies writing things the way they want them (or the way they think people want them), using the build it and they will come philosophy. But too many times they don’t come. Or when they do come, there’s too much time and money wasted on things that need to be reworked. Or even worse, companies often build products so flimsy you could hold them up to the light and see through them. But creative marketing makes it look like they have real substance.

Is it really that impossible for a company to put the customer first and let that drive everything else? Won’t happy customers lead to sales to new customers? Can’t taking care of your customers lead to customer retention, revenue, and profitability? It’s certainly possible.

Your company can be everything you want it to be and make all the money you hope for by putting the customer first. When you want to change personnel assignments or corporate structure, think about how it will affect the customer. If you’re going to change your products or services, make sure you can serve the customers you have without letting your new offerings steal all your attention. And if you sell software, think about how changing it will affect your customer base.

Companies have to make money to survive. But if you make decisions that adversely affect your clients, you’ll retain fewer clients and realize less revenue. Be smart, and remember the clients who helped you get where you are.

Their happiness means more to your success than you might realize.