I love developers. Some of my dearest friends and partners in crime are developers. But how is it that we came to live in such a developer centric world? As I’m looking for my next career opportunity one thing has become very apparent: we place far less value on the customer, and the people who take care of them, than anyone ever should.
If I was starting a new company, I would make sure that my second or third hire was a people person. Actually, I’d make sure my co-founder was a people person, but at the very least, somewhere in the first five employees. Your product or service needs customers to even exist (if you say “I’m going the ad revenue model route!” stop everything. Now.), and someone needs to find those users, nurture them, and build a community. Customers and people are your business. There is no other way to think about it.
So why is virtually no value put on the people who take care of the people? Is it deemed to be an “easy” job? Do people think anyone can do it? Maybe we think the customers will just take care of themselves? The answer to all of those questions starts with “no,” yet that is the culture I see put down at company after company. Have you seen a developer deal with a customer? No offense to my much beloved developer friends, but I have, and it ain’t pretty. Every second that a developer isn’t developing is wasted time on everyone’s part, most importantly the customer.
How can we fix this? I think the biggest thing we as a business community can even do is admit that it is happening. If you say I’m crazy and it isn’t happening, you’re kidding yourselves. I get it…developers keep the company up and running, but I’ll repeat it again: THERE IS NO COMPANY WITHOUT CUSTOMERS. Period. If people do not pay you money for your goods or services, you do not have a company.
Your companies are probably going to end up developer heavy, and that’s a good thing. Creative minds building great things is beautiful. But in that, you cannot lose sight of the customer. We fix it by admitting there’s a problem, identifying the problem in our own organizations, and doing whatever we can to say, “we value the customer above all, and the people that take care of them are a cornerstone of this company.”
People people are people too. The job takes time, patience, empathy, but above all else, buy in and understanding from everyone that it is an unbelievably needed and valued position. If we treat our people people like second class citizens, how are we truly going to treat our customers?