thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer-Centric Efficiencies

By on October 15, 2008

Every city's telephone book has a page of local government departments and agencies. It's usually in a different page color so that it can be found easily. It is also full of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of listings--a fact that makes it frustrating and intimidating for the citizen attempting to make the call.

Why do they do this? Because they believe it is efficient for them. The government is organized by the services it delivers and the customer must navigate through its system (telephone or online) in order to ask a question or get a problem solved. A more treacherous "approach" might even discourage the call in the first place, but please don't think I am suggesting that. It is the ultimate irony when some organizations believe that discouraging calls from customers actually improves their efficiencies and lowers their costs. However, for anyone who has attempted to scale through a menu-driven phone system, only to reach an employee who tells you that you have the wrong department and that they will transfer you, then you can relate.

But product-centric is out-of-date. What about a more positive approach? What if, on that call, you could simply tell someone your identifier (zip code, etc.) and they would find the answer based on their knowledge of you? Would you like that system better? This is thinking like a customer. The product-centric approach (even if the "product" is a service) is focused on the provider. The customer-centric system is focused on making life easier for the consumer. The irony, of course, is that it can be more efficient for the provider than the old system. Imagine an employee of the provider who encounters a different person in every transaction. He or she has to start from the beginning every time. Now, contrast that with an employee who knows his or her customers, has a relationship with them. That transaction can be based on previous knowledge of what the customers like. Take, for example, a bank teller who serves the same customer 52 weeks per year. Don't you think that the bank's performance in more consistent and more efficient than if that customer was served by 52 different bank associates during those weeks?

Being customer-centric is transformational. It improves the supplier's performance as much as it pleases the customer. That is the reason that organizations move in this direction. Thinking like a customer techniques not only change an organization's culture, but they also make that organization more efficient and effective. What organizations have you seen that transformed themselves into successful, customer-centric powerhouses?

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2 Responses to “Customer-Centric Efficiencies”

  1. [...] good friend Bill Self, in his thinkinglikeacustomer.com blog has a great article on the difference between product focus and customer focus. I recently had a brainstorming session [...]

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