Bet you have heard this before – “people are our most important asset” This old cliché is in our view true – and yet wrong! True because people are indeed the most important asset of any business but wrong because the people who matter most are not your employees but your customers. They will decide your future – they can make or break you faster than anything or anyone else. Successful companies understand this and hence they “live in the customer’s world”.
Living in the customer’s world means:
- understanding what they expect and how you compare – in their eyes – against your competitors
- you know what makes them tick – what influences their success
- you know how much budget they have
- you know who makes the decisions
- you understand how, where and when they want to buy
The really good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune on market research to get all the answers. What you do need to do is ensure that everyone in the business uses their eyes and ears – in particular those who spend a lot of time with customers. Then make sure they listen. Really listen. Ask questions, find out why customers do things the way they do. Then capture all this intelligence – it’s priceless. What’s more, the chances of your new products taking the market by storm will increase hugely – it’s customers who determine the success of your products not your design people or anyone else in your company.
Living in the customer’s world also means considering the impact on the customer of every decision you make. Always ask “what will this mean for customer’s”. It’s all too easy to invest in a new IT system or put in place some new invoicing paperwork that makes life easier for you but makes life miserable for your customers.
Many large companies have learnt the hard way the importance of living in the customer’s world. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s many UK retailers set up subsidiaries in overseas markets in order to become major players in those markets – and failed. Often spectacularly! Why? Because they had little or no insight into their overseas customers and assumed that what worked over here, would work over there. It didn’t. Today many of the same retailers now send their staff overseas to live with a typical family and observe their shopping habits before designing their overseas outlets. This ‘customer watching’ yields priceless insights into the lifestyles and shopping patterns of overseas customers and is then fed into virtually every aspect of the retailer’s offering from product range, store location, display, car parking, trolley size etc ..
Live in the customer’s world. Ultimately it’s the only world that matters.