Customers are a pain in the ass

Customers are a pain in the ass. They complain, want customised products and expect special treatment. They always want to have their cake and eat it. Let’s face it, most of them are not engaged with your organisation. They are buying from you because you offer a product they want, and perhaps because they like you. The truth is: they really don’t care about your business …and they’re totally right. It should never be about you. It’s about your clients!

In every boardroom, you hear the same mantra; “customer first”. It’s becoming quite fashionable to talk about your organisation as “customer oriented”. Yet, you rarely see it being implemented in practice. In the end, the customer stays that tiresome creature that is making everything much more difficult.

The relationship with your customer doesn’t have to be a struggle. Below you can find 5 ways to collaborate with your customer and work together to improve their ‘customer journey’.

1. Interview
Simply asking your customers what they want is a powerful way to gain useful insights. It’s an incredibly easy way to put your customer at the centre of attention and to truly listen to their needs. Yet, you’d be surprised to learn how often this obvious approach is ignored or forgotten.

Interviewing customers can be done on a large scale, for example via digital polls or a questionnaire, but it can also be done in a more intimate ‘one-on-one’ session. Clients will feel privileged when asked for their opinion. They are often more than happy to help you. The great thing is, you never know what you will discover. You might even stumble upon your organisation’s next disruptive innovation.

Why are you buying our product? How are you using our product? At what moments are you using our product? What would be an addition to our services? For which additional features would you be willing to pay?

2. Observe
Your customers will lie. They don’t lie on purpose, but they will not tell you the entire truth. Because they are ashamed or because they simply don’t know that they are lying. To tackle false statements and to see with your own eyes how customers are interacting with your product or service you should always introduce an ‘Observation Phase’.

Observing how people are interacting with your product will often reveal invaluable insights. Things you would never have discovered by doing desk research and holding interviews alone. Take Haier for example. This Chinese electronics company discovered that farmers were using their washing machines to wash vegetables. Instead of laughing about this discovery, they utilised this insight and developed a new kind of washing machine for vegetables. The farmers loved it and it sold phenomenally!

How are people engaging with your products or services? Are they using it in the proper way? Do you spot something remarkable? Can you find out how this occurs? What’s the reason it’s there?

3. Refine
Developing and designing a ‘customer journey’ is a great method to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Improving the process a client goes through is one of the easiest ways to create a better customer experience. There are several tools you can use concerning the reform of a customer journey.

You don’t always need to think big. Sometimes small changes can have a huge impact on the live of your customers. Especially when it comes to bureaucratic procedures. True, it’s not a sexy subject to work on, but for that very reason, your clients will appreciate it.

One approach I like in particular to improve a company’s management process is; ‘Staple Yourself to an Order’. By following an order as it goes through the organisation, you will spot all unnecessary and overlapping activities and needlessly complicated procedures. By tracking the transactions a customer goes through step-by-step, you will truly be able to view the world from your client’s perspective.

Something similar is a Six Sigma tool, called the ‘Spaghetti Diagram’. It’s the visual creation of an actual flow. It can be applied on products, paper or people. The idea is simply that you create a “cooked spaghetti” drawing, that’s based on the movements of your subject. For example, it can be used to create a (temporary) diagram of how people are walking on the work floor. This way it can, for instance, reveal that a machine is placed in an illogical place. Walking back and forth to pick up the phone or to grab some prints is a waste of time and should be prevented. Obviously, the same principles can be applied to track your ‘customer journey’.

How can we improve our customer journey? Can we make it more lean? Can we remove steps or procedures? Can we merge activities? Which steps take too much time?

4. Create
Customers are excellent at telling what can be improved, but they are often terrible at predicting the future concerning disruptive innovations. Rumour has it that Henry Ford once stated; “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

It’s nonsense to act upon everything a client says. They are not always right. In fact, they often are wrong. It’s important to understand their needs and to take them seriously, yet you should always keep in mind that you are the expert. Observation and interviewing your customers is not enough. You will have to come up with new ideas yourself. Concentrate on your target audience, create a ‘persona’ and let the ideas flow.

There are several thinking techniques that can help you with your challenge. The acronym S.C.A.M.P.E.R., for example, is a great method to get started.

What can you add to your service? What can you replace? Can you build your product out of a better material? Can you make it bigger or smaller? Can you find a purpose for your waste?

5. Test
You never know whether something will work in practice or not. You should always challenge your assumptions and put your ideas to the test.

Always take into account that you can’t proof or exclude everything in a test environment. During a session with a test group everybody disliked and disapproved Red Bull, yet today it’s one of the most valued brands in the world. Sometimes you just need to have the guts and test an unconventional idea in practice to see if it will work or not.

Do people really need what you’re offering? Are they using your product in a proper way? Is it user-friendly? Can you offer the same product in another way? What (customer) problem does it solve? Is there a market for this?


Hungry for more?
Curious to learn more about generating the most brilliant ideas for -or with- your clients? Join one of our workshops about Business Creativity in Rotterdam. Visit the workshop-page and see which option fits your needs best:

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