thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Timeless Customer Connections

By on December 30, 2009

A new year is upon us, but as we look to the future, let’s evaluate the universal and timeless principles that must not be forgotten. Customer relations are ever-changing but there are timeless qualities that will help us avoid being pulled in directions that are too short-term.

Spiral_lrgThe legendary architect, Christopher Alexander, revolutionized the approach to building with his concepts in The Timeless Way of Building. His belief was that we had lost our “fire” by creating structures and communities that no longer touched the humanitarian elements of our nature. We had forgotten the fundamental patterns that are universal, which give us “those moments and situations when we are most alive.”

Because these qualities had “broken down and were no longer shared” or even understood, the architectural industry was producing results that lacked “wholeness.” Alexander, therefore, developed a pattern language which was adaptable, but which made sense of “the endless play of the repetition and variety” in our cities and towns. This language of proper space and geometry “gives people who use it the power to create an infinite variety of new and unique buildings.” His synthesis has been called “the architecture of humanism” and it shepherded in techniques which resulted in a feeling of amplitude or fullness. It unfolded a process which was deep-seated and grounded in integrity. His book is a seminal work and you will gain a profound understanding of the world and the business in which you work by reading it.

There is an essential property to any system which accounts for its wholeness. In architecture, think of the awareness that you have when you see just the right use of space in a building. It is a very satisfying, abundant feeling that delights us as “customers” when we experience it.

In parallel with Alexander’s work, there is a fundamental quality of great customer relations that many organizations have lost. Let me be clear. This is not some nostalgia for “old-fashioned” customer service, which is often invoked. Most of us would be appalled if we could travel back in time to be dealt with in the way customers used to be treated.

The timeless system for customers is not going back, but beyond what exists today. The new paradigm represents congruence with your customers. It is authentic. It is the basis of a coherent approach within your business. It is satisfying to customers—not in that they simply liked the product or service that you provided, but that they felt deeply satisfied with their decision. It’s the difference between the feeling that you just did enough to satisfy your customers and awakening the feeling that you completely connected with them. It is the feeling of freedom that arrives when you know that your customers know they have absolutely made the right decision.

It is a system that can and must be built, but it is not found by reading a book and implementing a list of prescribed steps in your organization. It is complex and must be developed. However, it engrains in businesses Alexander's "infinite power" to design unique products and services In the speeches that I deliver, I talk about the criteria for identifying the genuine qualities that make up this “customer system” with its unifying structure. It is fundamental, but when implemented properly, it will take your business to the next level.

The future will belong to those organizations that can grasp these universal concepts and find their fire. There is a paradigm in customer success that is timeless. Our role should be to constantly move our organizations closer to that system that is more natural and whole. The necessary first step is to understand it and to design ways to pursue it. It will dramatically change the way that you relate to your customers.


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