News Flash: Customers Don’t Care About You

Your customer doesn’t care if you’re feeling sick or having a bad day.

This article appears in print in the April 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

For 15 years, I was not allowed to get sick on Saturday. I could be sick on Sunday and Monday. And while Tuesday through Friday weren’t ideal, if push came to shove, I could be sick then, too.

But not Saturday.

I couldn’t get sick on Saturday. Why? Because Saturday was showtime.

See, for 15 years, I was the executive producer of Seattle’s hit comedy TV show Almost Live! (You newer Seattleites can look it up on YouTube — or just ask the old person next to you.) We taped the show in front of a live audience on Saturdays at KING-TV, which used to be on Dexter Avenue before Amazon happened. And here’s the thing: That audience didn’t care if we were sick. They didn’t care if we were going through a divorce. They didn’t care if we had to have our pet put to sleep two hours before showtime. They didn’t care if the caterer failed to show up with dinner for the cast and crew, or if there’d been a fight in the editing room 10 minutes before we opened the doors or if the station had had a bomb threat earlier in the week. (By the way, all of these things actually happened.)

They didn’t even care if last week’s show was good or bad.

All they cared about was this week. This day. This hour. All they cared about was showtime.

That was my world. But it’s also your world. Because you have an audience, too. Maybe you call them customers, or clients, or patients, or members or stakeholders. The names change, but what they care about remains constant. They care about showtime.

What is showtime? It’s the product, it’s the service, it’s the experience. It’s any point where your business and your audience intersect. And it’s all they care about.

Which brings us to the painful, bitter, uncomfortable truth. Your audience doesn’t care about you. Think about it. When you go to Home Depot for some specialty light bulb, do you care if the person in the orange vest had a fender bender on the way to work that morning? No. You just want your damn light bulb, don’t you? (And yes, I know you’re a good person, and you’re an REI member, and you recycle and you care deeply about the welfare of all beings on the planet. But first, you want your damn light bulb.)

This is a lesson that some people — especially (and I hate to say this) some younger workers — don’t seem to get. If you’re one of these people, listen closely: It’s not about you!

Let’s say you decide to take the plunge and shell out $1,200 for a single ticket to see Hamilton. Because, let’s be honest, that’s the only way you’re going to get to see it. Do you care if the guy playing Aaron Burr “just isn’t that into it” that night? No, you expect him to suck it up and give you a $1,200 performance, right?

Your audience feels the same way. They want — they deserve — your best performance.

Nobody cares how good you used to be. If I’m your client, I don’t care about your track record. Yes, it may be what brings me in the door. But it’s not what I care about. What I care about — and all I care about — is “what are you going to do for me today?”

Which is why your job, as a leader, is to be better today than you were yesterday, and to be better tomorrow than you are today. Your job, as a leader, is to create an environment where your team can be better today than they were yesterday, and to be better tomorrow than they are today.

We all have problems. You have them; I have them. But our problems don’t matter to our audiences. Nor should they.

Speaker and author Bill Stainton’s book, Crunch Time: The Leader’s Guide to Producing Under Pressure, will be released later this year. Reach him at

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