thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Discovering a Better Way for Your Customers

By on February 24, 2010

Curiosity_medWorld-class performance requires a deep curiosity about how your customers’ needs are shifting. With the velocity of change happening today, attracting and keeping customers requires a significant rethinking of traditional ways of managing. A customer-centered culture can only emerge out of organization-wide efforts to constantly develop new information about customers.

Ranjay Gulati, author of Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, shares some very perceptive insights in a recent interview ( He correctly advises that customer-centricity starts with a sense of curiosity about the customers of a business. If companies want to stay ahead of the commodity trap, their leaders must instill a mentality of constantly learning about customer needs and how they are changing.

Bain & Company Chairperson, Orit Gadiesh, echoes the same emphasis on curiosity and business success. (Harvard Business Review She says, “To forge strong relationships and find solutions…it pays to ask lots of questions.” This is “the only way to get to a workable solution to any problem. Having access to a multitude of outside perspectives makes me…better.”  It is true that asking lots of questions will yield lots of new information that can be used to solve customer needs.

The passive, more slowly-paced reactions of the past no longer work. So, ask yourself whether you are an armchair leader or an explorer. If your organization’s sense of discovery has waned, find a solution that will jump-start the passion about customers again. This culture shift is stronger than simply listening to customers. Be aggressive. Peter Drucker, quoted in The Starfish and the Spider, believed that “the purpose of learning is (not) to qualify oneself for a new and bigger job,” but rather “is self-improvement. It qualifies a person to do his present task with continually wider vision and continually increasing competence.” Curiosity is the basis of how ideas both begin and evolve.

The end result of this sense of curiosity is organizational flexibility. As Gulati writes in his book, customer-centricity drives companies to “become adept at monitoring fluctuations in customizing solutions real time” and to “anticipate changing customer needs and offer value-based solution before customer can articulate them. In other words, all elements within the organization become aligned to adapt to customer needs. “The goal is to immerse yourself in customer problems so you can offer up unique solutions.”

Customer-centricity will not happen unless your organization is curious about customers and what they will need in the future. If you want your company to be customer-centered, create a culture that is continuously looking for ways to learn more about customers. Don’t become complacent. Be an explorer.


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