thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

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 from the competition.

The real advantages for companies going forward are coming from innovative organizational performance. There is a quiet revolution happening, in which customer-focused companies are using new ideas to create unexpected and valuable experiences for all of their customers, rather than counting on these transactional acts of great service for individual customers.

Companies are remaking themselves. They are setting the bar for themselves at a higher level based on how creatively they perform at every touch-point for their customers. This intuitive thinking—the belief that they can always challenge the business to design a product or service to be better for the customer—is helping organizations to continue to grow.

Paula Scher, quoted in How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, describes the process as finding "a way to solve a problem, ...a means of moving forward-in a new way-things you have already done." So, it can be game-changing or it can be really simple. Either way, as Scher says, "I want to create unexpected things set in a way that makes logical sense. I want to reinterpret how things can be put together. This changes the expectations of what is possible."

Last week, I received a fabulous birthday card produced by QuotableCards. The Gandhi quote on the front of the card read, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." The design, however, was created so that, in the typography, the words "change the world" were shown in a more prominent color. Progressive companies that are committed to transforming themselves into being customer-centered are, indeed, trying to produce a positive, change-the-world outcome for their customers.

The playing field is changing. It is no longer good enough to expect transactional acts of customer service to get us by. That approach is too reactive and too random. A strong future is built on empowering the business to grow new ideas and is based on taking your work in another direction in order to align more precisely with your customers.

Successful organizations are developing systems throughout the enterprise, which will proactively create new approaches that are unexpected by their customers. But these unexpected innovations resonate as valuable because they were designed by a well-developed organizational culture geared toward thinking like a customer. It's OK to change your customers' expectations, as long as you take them higher. The new way of thinking and managing equates to a quiet revolution that measures its success by its ever-improving performance for the customer.


One Response to “The Quiet Revolution”

  1. Mark Price says:

    Bill -- It is interesting that you describe individual efforts at extraordinary service as becoming more commonplace. My clients are all struggling with the issue of how to identify and encourage these extraordinary acts, since they tend to fall outside of company guidelines and can be "hidden" to company metrics. Building the systems you described will be critical to institutionalizing such efforts.

    In my personal experience, I find such acts to be more and more rare, as employees find themselves more distanced from management and the company's values. If you have ever been inside a cell phone store, called a help desk for cable television, even tried to plan a trip on-line, you will see more and more disconnect between employees and the company values. When jobs are at risk, the case becomes even more to the point.

    Great companies will build a culture of shared commitment in times of struggle and increase employee engagement. Most though, will seek to meet bottom line requirements by slashing costs, regardless of the "hidden" cost to employees and thereby to their customers.

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