thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Visual Thinking

By on September 8, 2010

Visual Thinking is a classic discussion of creativity and “the ability to see” and understand our environment. It has some great lessons for us about how we perceive customer-centricity.

In the book, Rudolf Arnheim explores the gathering and processing of information and he proposes the concept that there is little separation between seeing and thinking. In other words, he believes that perception leads to comprehension.  He also describes how vision completes our comprehension.  For example, a box partly covered by a flowerpot, is seen as a complete cube that is partly hidden, because our perception “enlists invisible extensions” as genuine parts of the visible. Objects are perceived as three-dimensional not because the viewers complete the fragment that they see. Viewers’ minds and collective experiences help them see the object as complete.

Customers see their suppliers as complete organizations, as well, and judge them in total rather than by individual transactions. When a company delivers a flat, one-dimensional performance, customers become frustrated—not only because the transaction went poorly, but because they perceive the total company to be this way. Over time, they make judgments, based on their collective experiences, about the quality and the culture of those organizations. It is up to the leaders of those organizations to define what that image is going to be. It can no longer be a façade. It has to be organic and full of life.

Frame_medAll organizations should have a clean, clear vision of how they look to their customers—a 3D version that includes every aspect of the relationship, from product quality and transactional courtesy to how focused the culture is on customer success. It doesn’t just happen. The organization must create a system to “shine a light” on itself in order to be useful to the customer.

If an organization aspires to be customer-centered, it must fully comprehend how it really looks to its customers. If it wants to be proactive, for example, then it needs to truly “look” proactive at all layers within the organization. Only with this full understanding can it be aware of the tweaks that are needed to design a system for continuous improvement.


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