Want to Kick the Competition? Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes

April 16, 20199min

Competition is intensifying in almost every industry worldwide and in the race for success, enterprises face a growing risk of losing site of the fundamental elements for business success – a strong product that can serve the needs of every user.

Despite the focus on building a more efficient, tech-centric future, creating an innovative product without fully understanding the customer’s requirements is simply a pointless task and could perhaps not even amount to success in the long run. As Steve Jobs famously said: “You’ve got to start with the Customer Experience and work backwards to the technology. You cannot start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it.”

Success in today’s business world is not about the speed at which you innovate; it is a result of businesses putting customers at the heart of everything they do, by taking the time to learn exactly what they need and providing your product in a way that makes sense for their organisation.

A 2017 report by McKinsey echoes this sentiment, observing that the traditional product or business manager-led ideas are “too slow and insular” and the lack of customer feedback present throughout the development phase means that businesses “often learn only after the fact that they invested in the wrong areas and made improvements that do not deliver a differentiating experience”.

The power of the customer

Modern decision makers must therefore take a different, more hands-on approach to customer interaction in order to both build and improve their own service, make their user’s lives easier, and meet the changing demands of the business landscape.

As the competition for customers increases daily, user research is the true secret weapon of a successful product. Being able to form a complete understanding of customer requirements in the context in which they might use a product is priceless. It is the gift that will keep on giving, because even when you know what your product offers and what you’re truly selling, your customers might have a completely different idea.

Other times, they don’t know exactly what they need from a product, which makes observing them first hand even more powerful. As a provider, business leaders must understand what their customers are trying to accomplish and then develop to get them there in the simplest fashion.

What’s more, the product then also needs to work for your target users – business today isn’t a one-size-fits all process and designing and developing in this way will inevitably cause a ‘square peg in a round hole’ situation when it comes to customer implementation. In order to grow, companies should pick the brains of their users, gauge exactly what their frustrations are, then build on this to overcome these pain points for the masses.

Getting out on the road

New ideas, mindsets, and attitudes to development are now essential for motivating and encouraging business leaders to think outside the box and embrace a vision of growth. The pool of experience amongst the business community is growing every day and leaders should also be taking the time to make themselves a resource for helping others, in order to connect with customers, learn, and ultimately drive their own success on a large scale.

Stepping on the ground to walk in a customer’s shoes is therefore vital for understanding how those using a service perceive it, and unearthing the changes which could shape the business for the better. Regardless of time constraints, getting out on the road and away from the day-to-day running of a company can help leaders to ‘tune out the noise’ and gather valuable insights that could take their business forward in the future. The key to growth today really is listening and learning from customers – if you listen, they’ll tell you.

Speaking from my own experience of touring the UK to collect insight from customers, this grassroots learning can reap huge benefits; it allows you to hear directly from the people most able to scrutinise their service and hold the business to account for areas where it could do better. However, it is not only valuable for driving product developments – it will also speak volumes for the reputation of the company. What’s more, setting out to be helpful with one-on-one interactions with customers in this way will show your dedication to deliver on a primary goal of making your user’s lives easier.

Change culture from the top

Today, over half (52 percent) of people worldwide believe that companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers. Shifting the focus of your staff away from technology and towards a better Customer Experience in this way can ultimately help to carve out new opportunities within increasingly saturated markets. Instilling this culture practically across a business can be led by business leaders themselves.

Setting an example by taking visiting customers, delivering customer-focused training, and encouraging regular contact with those investing in your service can ensure that this customer-centric attitude filters down into the workforce.

Now is the time for a more ‘on the ground’ approach from decision makers and the rewards for unlocking customer insights on a more personable level are clear to see. Spending time getting to know the customer’s position can lead to some eye-opening truths about your business, both good and bad. These truths can range from flaws in your products, strengths in your service, or even customer feeling towards their relationship with staff.

Every insight gathered from customers can be learned upon and fed back into a business, enabling its leaders to build a better product and drive maximum value, both now and in the future. Leaders who commit themselves to sharing their own knowledge and building more direct customer relationships will ultimately come out on top in the race for both success and equally satisfied customers.

Michael FitzGerald

Michael FitzGerald

Michael FitzGerald is the founder and CEO of OnePageCRM.

Inform. Inspire. Include.
A free way to improve your business.

Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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