thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer by Committee

By on November 3, 2010

Committee_smWhat are committees good for? Delaying, watering down, and getting mired in paralysis by analysis. If you are not careful, committees will see their responsibility as rejecting new ideas for reasons that they might take the organization away from the status quo. That is the opposite of what you need when it comes to customers.

Rather than relying on committees, successful companies center their efforts on their customers and give employees the freedom to design and implement new ideas that customers will value. This should not be a narrow interpretation of design as “packaging” or design features. Instead, design for customers must involve processes and services and be deep-rooted and notable, with its own personality. As Steve Jobs famously said in a 2003 New York Times interview, “(Design) is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

If you organization wants its own personality, customer-by-committee will not work. Decisions have to move faster than that. A committee approach will dilute the outcomes. Trying to settle for a “one-size-fits-all strategy” will compromise the outcomes to a one-dimensional space which has to be ordinary in order to work for everybody. Jay Greene, in Design Is How It Works, for example, writes how LEGO channeled the design ideas of hardcore fans (who are also customers) into their new LEGO Architecture line including models or world-famous buildings. Leaders opening their minds to creative ideas helped LEGO launch new product lines and create even more loyal and influential customers. Think about it: Bureaucracy will not generate creativity.

Instead, products and services “work” when they are designed based on what is best from the customers’ viewpoint. Organizations don’t need a committee to decide what makes sense for the customer. They need guiding principles that will permit freedom to design great ideas, but with an unmistakable gauge—the customer. They need a culture filled with passionate employees that are single-minded about helping the customer to succeed. Create a system that is clear and unencumbered—one that is only focused on what is best for the customer.

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