thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

How Did You Do It?

By on December 24, 2008

Every company during the holidays will be reaching out to its customers and thanking them for the relationship they have had during the year.

At this thoughtful time of the year, it is valuable to take a true assessment of your success. But as you reflect on what you have accomplished in the year, it is much more important to evaluate how you did it and how you can get better at doing it.

• Were your actions based on what the customer needed, rather than what you were selling?
• Did you concentrate your efforts on increasing customer loyalty, rather than hoping you will serendipitously retain your current customers going forward?
• Does your organization operate under a system that balances the traditional financial and operation mentality with decisions driven by thinking like a customer?
David Dotlich and James Noel, in their book Action Learning: How the World's Top Companies are Re-Creating Their Leaders and Themselves  outline a customer component of Action Learning. They write, "Don't minimize customers' goals. To establish a meaningful partnership, define what customers are trying to achieve, who they are, and what drives them in that direction. Stay in touch with customer needs." In order for your organization to grow it must anticipate customer needs so that it can develop new markets.

They go on to write, "Time and again, we have found that organizational behaviors and attitudes filter the customer voice; or they distort that voice; or they respond to it through functional biases; or they hear only what they want to hear, locked into past customer service practices." Customer-related issues cannot be simply addressed on an ad hoc basis. Instead, integration of future-thinking about the customer into your company is the only way to go.

During these holidays, remember to thank your customers for their loyalty and their contribution to your success. No matter how successful your company was in 2008, however, you can only gauge your success or failure in terms of how well you are exceeding your customers' expectations. Continue to improve your performance by building a formal system that embraces the needs and goals of your customers-one that listens to their voices and views every action through their eyes.

Don't think "what" but "how" you delivered for your customers. Balance your approach by instilling the expectation that all of your employees, including executives, make decisions by first thinking like a customer. Have a happy holiday season!

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