How responsible do you feel for your customers?
Our customers are our responsibility. What happens to them is our problem, particularly regarding what we do for them.
Customers are not resources to get exploited by getting more money off them every way we can. Customers are friends to be helped by supporting them in achieving their lifestyle aims. In return, they will help us back by supporting our business.
To do so, we need to look every day at two aspects of what we do:
- Value analysis: what value can we improve in what we do today? What issues can we solve for customer within our existing delivery processes?
- Value engineering: what value can we offer tomorrow? How can we help customers better solve their problems by proposing new functions, features, performance?
This second questions is very hard to figure out. No one has a crystal ball, and when we think about what we could be doing next, there are many, many demands to grasp:
- What customers ask us to do – the long wish list of “nice to have” customers regularly share with us.
- What they really use in our service – typically, what people say they like and what they really use it for are rarely the same thing. We need to step in their shoes and look through their eyes to figure out what concrete problem in their lifestyle customers use us for – as opposed to what they tell us.
- What we’d like to do – we all have a self-described mission in life that we express through our business or activities, what we see is our contribution to the world. This is great, but not always aligned with what our customers expect. It’s both the opportunity to offer something new, and the risk to get it badly wrong.
- What the environment pushes us to do – we’re never alone in any setting and we all have board, bosses, shareholders, regulators, media, and all these folk have ideas about what we should do or not to, not necessarily always helpful.
There is no methodical way out of this mess of expectations other than constantly think and rethink about it.
By clarifying our new value initiatives and assessing their impact in terms of:
- How many of our customers expressed interest in purchasing the new service (put their money where their mouth is)?
- Did they like it (‘s okay) or love it (wow!)?
- Did it grab people that we didn’t consider to be our core client segment?
We can’t know what our future business will be, but we’ll have a better idea of how well we take care of our current customers and they will point us to what the future of the business is. We can’t ask them (they’re answers will be misleading) but we can show them, and they’ll show us where to go next by how they use our new offer.