thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer


By on August 12, 2009

There is a simple method for outperforming and growing your business. It involves what author Jim Champy describes as "finding something that you can do better than your competitors." Every process that touches your customers represents an opportunity to distinguish your organization as better in the eyes of your customers. Here's how you can identify these opportunities.

There are three categories that your customers will use to describe your processes:

  • Really Poor-Ugly, supplier-centric procedures that make your customers wonder why they are buying from your company
  • Ordinary-These interfaces make you look the same as your competition. Frankly, they are just average.
  • Extraordinary-When a process is really better, you deliver reactions of ‘wow' and delight. It is unique and compelling to employees and customers at the same time.

Thinking like a customer, have your staff describe several of your processes and argue in favor of the adjectives that they use. It is critical that they approach the task from the customer's viewpoint. They should say, "The customer sees this event (your ordering process, for example) as cumbersome or the same as our competitor's process or very user-friendly." It should be somewhere on a continuum of really poor to remarkably good.

Hopefully you know how to address your really weak areas. Most of your touch-points, however, will fall into the Ordinary category. But you want them to be better than your competition, don't you? Take these into the Extraordinary category by making them easier or more enjoyable for your customers.

Recently I ordered new personal checks from Deluxe Corp. I was delighted when the checkbooks were delivered in a flat envelope rather than the old-fashioned boxed shipment. The checkbooks were packed end-to-end and included a flat box, which recipients can set up for storage in their desks. The creativity of the packaging was exciting and the company included a description about the significantly better security and safety of the new package. Because the envelope was sturdier and weatherproof, Deluxe told me how it "pampers my checks." The change made perfect sense and I wondered why it had not been thought of before. It was definitely not ordinary.

At the extraordinary level, work on function, not fashion. With each change you make it better for your customers. Rethink how your organization creates value - in process, not product. Get your employees involved. They know where the problems are. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask why your organization continues to perpetuate processes that are not customer-focused. The chances for streamlining will become obvious and will catalyze your efforts to turn average into remarkable.

Nurture a culture which believes you can improve everything. Yes, everything! Challenge your team to become better than your competitors. But don't stop at one or two changes. Model every innovation as "taking you further". Crystallize new ideas around customer impact. The key to becoming extraordinary is to think like a customer.


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