thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Not Questioning Enough

By on February 15, 2012

"They do not question themselves. They could improve. They just stand on their laurels. There is a lack of innovation." This was a comment about a supplier from one of our recent voice-of-the-customer research studies. Frankly, this lack of questioning is a trait of organizations that is all too common.Window_lrg

The article “Broken Windows” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in March 1982. It suggested that crime and vandalism increased when disorder was perceived to be accepted. A few broken windows, in other words, that were tolerated would eventually lead to more broken windows in the neighborhood. Therefore, a strategy to fix problems when they are small would prevent a future spiral down to greater disorder.

The theory is not wrong, because if a negative view exists about anything, from a building to an organization, then that troublesome perception can precipitate a cycle that worsens instead of staying the same. But it is outdated because it limits our thinking if we believe that is all that needs to be done. The problem with this philosophy, unfortunately, is that it galvanizes an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset in organizations, encouraging them to “stand on their laurels.” Today’s approach has to go beyond an “absence of problems” mentality to embrace innovation in order to stay ahead of the competition.

This is especially true in customer relationships. Simply fixing problems or situations that are broken is not enough. Companies must open windows to new service design ideas in an effort to connect with customers. Leaders in high-performing organizations must aggressively question “not broken” processes that appear to be “working” in order to discover how they can be further improved.

Organizations that will grow and prosper in the next three years will be the ones that go beyond a thirty-year-old broken windows theory. They will be the ones that challenge their current services and processes and have a system that anticipates opportunities that their customers will value—even before they ask for them.

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