thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

What Can Your Customers Accomplish?

By on November 19, 2008

There's a difference between providing your customers only with the product or service that they expect and helping them achieve what they care about. How would it feel to offer your customers something that didn't cost you anything, but that delivered to them a powerful sense of accomplishment?

CP Rochester in Rochester, NY knows all about instilling this sense of accomplishment in their consumers. The agency helps children and adults with disabilities and their dedicated employees and volunteers provide great support and service every day to their customers.

Sara Dankert, one of CP's employees, has a Masters in Art Education. She became the advocate for Jane Gefell in February 2004. They quickly became friends and Sara says that "people think we are family." Sara recognized Jane's interest in art. She helped her frame one of Jane's paintings as a gift for Jane's friend. She motivated her to use her serious interest in art to express herself and they set goals together. This culminated in Jane's personal art show in September 2006 to display her work. One of Jane's friends at CP, Jeff Yarmel, joined her in exhibiting their paintings in a second show in October 2008. At this show they sold their work to raise money for the agency. Their art had evolved beyond being only an outlet for themselves and was now supporting others that they cared about.

This story, however, goes far beyond helping one consumer. It was rewarding at three levels. First, Jane felt not only greater self-esteem, but also a sense of accomplishment in creating art that people enjoyed. In the recent book Spiral Up: and Other Management Secrets Behind Wildly Successful Initiatives, author Jane C. Linder describes several emotional hooks that energize people. These include Winning (and the accompanying pride), Striving, Belonging, Creating, Independence, and Contributing or Giving. All of these emotions manifested themselves for Jane in the gratification of making a difference for others.

At another level, however, Sara felt rewarded because she facilitated a process to help her customer develop-a process which would not have happened without her. This epitomizes the ‘Thinking Like a Customer' approach by going far beyond expected performance to attain abundance for consumers. The ongoing initiatives "help both of us. We both needed the project to motivate us and to show each other what we are doing." It starts with connections between people, but, as Sara says, "we push each other to go further and do greater things."

At a third level, the success of this effort between artist and student was observed by all agency workers as a fantastic example. Sara modeled great behavior and paved the way for others in the agency to take creative ideas to the next level in helping customers express themselves.

All organizations become more successful when they think in terms of helping their customers achieve more. Instead of simply serving customers, high-performing organizations empathize with them. When we understand what customers are passionate about and are capable of accomplishing, we simply need to give them a boost. When we embrace this as our jobs, our task becomes transformational.

Customers want a sense of accomplishment. Relationships can frequently become routine. But we don't often put this customer viewpoint into practice. Give them goals that they really care about. Give them a direction, a start-then, let them complete the task. The payback is just as satisfying for you and your organization. The art efforts by Jane and Jeff made as much of a difference for Sara, their mentor, as for the artists themselves.

How many companies do you know that have reached out to their customers to help them accomplish something they never thought possible? Tell us about your best stories. Tell us about an organization that went above-and-beyond in showing its customers how to accomplish results that the customer never thought possible. If you give them this empowerment, they will always remember you.

Photos provided by Sara Dankert.

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