As an organization places more focus on the company, the product, and the processes…it is difficult not to experience a reciprocal “lessening” of focus on the customer. I once worked for an organization whose focus had resorted to “what can our R&D department design that will be efficient to manufacture and perform exceptionally well?” Sounds great, right? Well, not until you understand that what that company manufactured were gazillions of white and brown square windows, while the world wanted tan and green and arch tops and true divided light grilles. In other words…choices. We were doing what we though was right; what we liked to make; and could make well–but had momentarily lost sight of what customers really wanted.
The happy ending to this story is that ultimately that company “got it” and through intensely asking questions and listening to their customers, they moved from “manufacturing and product focused” to “customer and market focused.” In the words of their president at the time, “The Giant Has Awakened.” And they went on to maintain market dominance and provide what customers want…not necessarily what they decided they could make efficiently.
You have to know the customer. You have to ask questions about needs, and peel back the layers of the onion to get a true picture of how you can add value, to make their lives easier, and what needs you can fill that create “win-win” lasting partnerships. The only way I’ve ever found to do this is to go stand in the customer’s place of business, and look back at your own company through their eyes.
And if they don’t have the answer…you had sure better.