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Thinking Like a Customer

What You Are Already Doing

By on May 30, 2014

It’s easy for organizations to explain what they already are doing well for the customer. It’s often difficult for them to explain what they could have done better.

Customer-Centered Advocates

By on April 9, 2014

Organizational advocacy for the customer will be the difference-maker in the future. Because you understand their needs more clearly, they will advocate for you in return. That’s the essence of customer loyalty.

Question Everything

By on October 10, 2012

Customer 3D organizations are re-visiting all of their traditional ways of doing business from the customers’ viewpoint – before customers question it themselves. It’s long overdue.

When is Self-Service Customer-Centered?

By on September 12, 2012

Our perceptions of self-service are changing. However, self-service must be customer-centered. Companies must ask themselves whether the change saves customer effort, making the process more convenient & more straightforward.

Improv for Customers

By on August 8, 2012

The lessons of improv comedy for businesses are to allow freedom to explore new areas that will make the connection with customers (or the audience). Instead of being restricted by what you perceive as rules, be open to where your customers want you to go. Be natural, but with a sense of play. Enjoy the freedom to say “yes…and” if the results are better for the customer.

Pretending to be Customer-Centered

By on February 22, 2012

Every company will tell you it is customer-centered. But, you can’t call your organization customer-centric if you see-saw back and forth to being product-centered and occasionally adding a little customer-friendliness. Being customer-centered is intentional.

Customer Myopia

By on June 23, 2010

Most supplier-centric organizations rationalize that they know what customers need. What these companies perceive to be needs fall far short of what customers want. Customer-centric organizations look for new opportunities to offer to their customers, rather than waiting for them to be asked for.

Customer-Centric Managers

By on October 28, 2009

A few passionate managers can change the culture in an organization by leading their team toward customer-centricity. Executive leadership must set the tone and direction for customer-centricity. But middle managers are in the best position to know when to take off the training wheels and make change happen.

Hyper-Loyalty

By on October 21, 2009

Why are there organizations with customers that are "off the charts" in their loyalty? Customer-centricity creates a symbiotic relationship with customers. Hyper-loyal customers have a passion for converting others to become members of their "club" so that others can have the same great experiences.

Customer-Centric Problem Handling

By on October 14, 2009

Research which we do for our clients indicates time and time again that customers who reported a problem and were delighted with the outcome have higher satisfaction than the ones who never experienced a problem at all. Why would any company simply want to break-even with these opportunities? Service recovery should energize the organization to become more customer-centered.

An Early Warning System

By on October 7, 2009

“There’s no such thing as good news or bad news. There’s only fast news and slow news.” Fast knowledge happens within organizations that are connected and proactively communicating with their customers. Every organization should have an early warning system. The best one is built around closeness with your customers.

A New Approach to Customer-Centricity

By on September 30, 2009

The new approach to customer-centricity embodies being a caretaker for the customer ecology in every interaction between external customers and your organization.

Fluency

By on September 23, 2009

Success requires collaboration so that the entire organization is “speaking the customer’s language.” Communication is inevitably poor when it's one-sided. Focusing on customers is the most important dimension of your culture; delivery must be as fluent as possible.

Customer Certainty

By on September 16, 2009

If you are constantly looking at what your competitors are doing, you will simply end up imitating each other. Being customer-centered brings better clarity to organizations because it focuses them on thinking like a customer, instead of a competitor.

How to Answer Questions

By on September 9, 2009

Amazon.com continues to be a successful, strong brand because it always answers its business questions—strategic and day-to-day—with a solution that includes “the customer.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO,  has given the world insight into how he leads the Amazon organization through a series of interviews over the years. I believe the best is “The Institutional Yes” […]

Educated Customers

By on September 2, 2009

The organizations that will survive and thrive five years from now are the ones that have educated customers. That's because smart customers will remain loyal to suppliers that deliver high value. This value goes far beyond a generic product or service. It educates its customers as part of the relationship. Customer-centered suppliers understand this as […]

Tells

By on August 26, 2009

Tells are indicators of what others see in you—how you will behave in any situation. Customers use all of your interactions with them to form an impression of how you will treat them as customers in the future. It is really important to understand these tells and to manage them deliberately because customers judge your […]

I Know All the Right Answers

By on August 19, 2009

Much of our client work involves assisting leaders in developing their organizations to become more customer-centered. But what if the leaders don't get it? What if they think they know all the right answers about customers already? A phrase that you hear a lot these days is "They don't know what they don't know". I […]

Extraordinary

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 […]

The Multiplier Effect (Part II)

By on August 5, 2009

It is fantastic news that great performance, grounded in being customer-centered, is available for every business if it wants it. It grows out of deliberate practice and design of an organization-wide culture to improve on behalf of your customers. There is another dimension of the multiplier effect that will add even more to your image […]

The Multiplier Effect (Part I)

By on August 5, 2009

The more you do something, the better you get at it. We are familiar with this concept in sports and music, because the more you practice, the better you become. The same thing applies in leading your organization to become more customer-centered. In economics, a multiplier effect describes the degree of change in one variable […]

Greatness Without Customers?

By on July 29, 2009

It's amazing how organizations believe they can become great while ignoring their customers. Jim Collins' How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In builds off of his Good to Great and Built to Last tenets to analyze how successful companies get better, or conversely, how they decline. He describes how companies can under-perform by […]

Change We Can Believe In

By on July 22, 2009

I love it when people shake up the way we think. That is what we need in order to stay competitive in today's business environment. A growing number of new thought leaders are helping us to understand that the best approach to bringing about positive change is to structure our actions around being customer-centered. Pip […]

Right-Brain Business Goals (II)

By on July 15, 2009

Right-brain thinking will not take you to the next level without distinct business goals. The right-brain approach has always been a metaphor for intuitive, innovative, big-picture decision-making. With specific goals, this underutilized perspective will accelerate your business growth and customer commitment. Every successful organization needs specific customer-centered goals. These go far beyond narrowly thinking of […]

Right-Brain Business Goals (I)

By on July 8, 2009

Much has been written recently about right-brain thinking—and it is long overdue. Business has traditionally been left-brained, but its ability to search for greater efficiencies and to innovate while lowering costs has reached a plateau. The new opportunity to take performance to the next level is through right-brain thinking. A shift to this approach signifies […]

Designing a Better Future

By on July 1, 2009

When I conduct client workshops I often ask participants this question: What could your competitors be developing for your customers right now that you don't currently offer? We know it is impossible to draw an accurate picture of the future. As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But we continue […]

The Last Question First

By on June 24, 2009

Alan Webber's Rules of Thumb is an absolute must-read. It is quintessential to leading your organization through the next day, week, year and beyond. It is game-changing, but simple. It is practical and inspiring at the same time. And it weighs in solidly on thinking like a customer. For example, Webber's Rule #3 is ‘Ask the […]

Be Notable

By on June 17, 2009

The greatest challenge of escaping the sameness of your product or service is to stay ahead of what your direct competition offers. Adjust the space that you operate in. That is, design and sustain a service that is truly different from the rest of your market segment. The key, of course, is to make certain […]

Loyalty Programs are Changing

By on June 10, 2009

Last week, I attended the Loyalty Expo, a showcase of the prominent suppliers using incentive rewards programs to drive their business growth. The good news is that some of the companies that are using these points programs are looking at new ways to drive loyalty by becoming more relevant and customer-centered. The old models are […]

Context is a Big Advantage (Part II)

By on June 3, 2009

Here's the reason that you want context from your customers: There is no greater source of new opportunities. Forget what you thought you knew about being customer-focused. The new business model is built around a culture in which employees, as Dev Patnaik says, "possess a shared and intuitive vibe...that helps them see new opportunities faster […]

Context is a Big Advantage (Part I)

By on May 27, 2009

We have all experienced the paradox that "the more successful a company becomes, the more likely it is to become removed from customer segments." (The Open-Empathy Organization, Dev Patnaik and Peter Mortensen, from Rotman Magazine, Spring 2009). If the phrase "taken out of context" has negative overtones (as it should) of misquoting, bad information and […]

The Age of Engage

By on May 20, 2009

The next great opportunity to drive customer closeness is optimizing the recognition of your most loyal customers. We live in the "age of engage", so success depends on developing an individualized relationship with important upper tier clients and an environment that encourages outstanding performance for this key subgroup of very committed customers. Ask yourself this […]

Branding Your Outperformism

By on May 13, 2009

The new competitive advantage is in outperformism, built around delivering the passion in your organization for being customer-centered. Because that fresh way of thinking is really, really valuable today, it should be viewed as your new brand. The old paradigm was to brand your product, then throw in your customer-centered behavior as icing on the […]

Outperformism

By on May 6, 2009

Outperformism is what successful organizations must do to differentiate their products and services and keep their competitive advantage. This level of performance only occurs when a company implements a structured system to proactively exceed the expectations of its customers. It is borrowed from the term ‘outperform' for a rating which a stock analyst might give […]

Customer-Centric Management is Non-Traditional

By on April 29, 2009

Much has been written about the successful partnership model epitomized by Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart in a landmark collaboration started 20 years ago. However, in addition to the Information Technology and supply chain synergies that developed, the even greater lesson to be learned is that being customer-centric involves changing your organization chart in terms […]

The Quiet Revolution

By on April 22, 2009

Many well-intentioned companies tell us that they want to exceed our expectations. Unfortunately, in many cases, we are used to "unexpected" service at the transactional level, when, for example, an employee from a business provides us with great service. Now, what was once unexpected has become simply table stakes in the drive to differentiate your organization […]

Designfulness

By on April 8, 2009

Breakthrough ideas are easier to identify than ever before. Train your organization to use its design capabilities. Designer thinking will become more and more important in every organization's relationships with its customers.

Customer Excellence as a Way of Life

By on April 1, 2009

Successful companies have an excellence quotient that they never compromise. The secret, however, is not in products and marketing. The secret is in creating this excellence from the viewpoint of the customer, because that is who will ultimately be the judge of whether they deserve that high status. The secret is in becoming customer-centered. One […]

Short-Term Thinking

By on March 25, 2009

Short-term thinking has plagued businesses for years, but in today's economic conditions, it is even more dangerous. Now is the time for change, not to stand still. Organizations in a survival mode resort to quick fixes such as downsizing and postponing expenses. Their leaders don't realize that they cannot recycle the ideas of the past […]

Customer-Centric Accelerator

By on March 18, 2009

Becoming customer-centric is transformational and it requires a change in culture as well as in process design. It demands a long-term commitment that involves everyone in your organization. However, there is one proven method to jump-start the process in a way that will accelerate the company-wide commitment to the journey. The graphic with this article […]

Heliotrophy

By on February 4, 2009

When a plant is put in a window, over time it begins to lean toward the light. In the same manner, generous, abundant actions by businesses create a positive energy source that attracts customers. These suppliers are viewed as legendary, not ordinary.

Can I Have Your Customers?

By on January 28, 2009

If a competitor asked you this question, your emphatic answer would be "No Way!" Customers are assets. You wouldn't give up your computers or manufacturing equipment, would you? Well, now is the optimum time to upgrade your strategy with a serious focus on thinking like your customers. In these severe economic times, the competition is […]

Winning Streaks

By on January 21, 2009

It seems that in the 21st century, we are fascinated by winning streaks in business. In the same way in which we admire teams or individuals that can dominate their sports, we look up to companies who have had long-term success. However, recognizing these winning streaks is much easier than understanding how they become a […]

A Well-Defined Future

By on January 14, 2009

Organizations will not be successful by making old ways more efficient. The competitive environment is changing so rapidly that a lean cost structure is no longer a differentiator. Instead, the advantage going forward will go to the companies that can develop a solidly different vision that tests their decisions based on what is best for […]

Outside-Inside

By on January 7, 2009

Your customers, by definition, are outside the "four walls" of your organization. Progressive, successful organizations, however, look for opportunities to invite customers to participate in their internal activities. It is a remarkable way to clearly validate customer-focus to all of your employees. It is also a way to inject new thinking that otherwise may not […]

The Year of the Customer

By on December 31, 2008

As we are about to begin a new year, please let me assure you that I am just kidding with the title of this post. Isn't it somewhat presumptuous to announce just one year for customers, when every day and every year should be devoted to them? It also makes you wonder what the other years […]

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 […]

Creating Customer Mindshare

By on December 17, 2008

Thinking like a customer is unselfish. Barlean's CIO, Jade Beutler, describes his organization's efforts as "making things intuitive for consumers." But unselfish acts also pay off in ways that benefit us, as we all know. Barlean's is a Ferndale, Washington-based seller of organic nutritional products, such as fish oils and flax seed. They were founded […]

That Sounds Familiar

By on December 3, 2008

Technology is advancing so quickly that there is a risk customers will not accept it or, at least, not like it. My wife and I were in a casino recently playing the slot machines for fun (certainly not for profit!). The devices, of course, were electronic and took cash, magnetic cards or casino-approved receipts in […]

Customer Details

By on November 26, 2008

Customer focus does not happen offhandedly. It requires leadership and emphasis on details to stay effective. Many organizations fail or drift because they believe it is easy, they take it for granted and they don't deliver the concentrated efforts needed to be successful. Donald Keough, who was President and COO of Coca-Cola Company at the […]

The Seventh Hat: For Customers

By on October 22, 2008

Dr. Edward de Bono is renowned for his groundbreaking work in lateral thinking and systems for generating ideas. In his book Six Thinking Hats (Little, Brown and Company, copyright 1985, 1999 by MICA Management Resources, Inc.) he describes a technique for channeling thoughts about a problem or improvement opportunity by putting on one of six […]