At a recently held creative round-table in Walled lake, Michigan, we entered into a good conversation around design and creativity. Many of us tend to believe that our businesses or brands exist to meet the needs of customers that we serve. Customers are people who use or need your products/services. The customer centricity debate wants you to put them at the heart of your work. It makes sense.
You’d like to create things that matter and make a difference. It’s hard to be a business or a brand functioning in vacuum. But it’s also hard to be a customer centric brand. Here are some basic issues that many small businesses or Startups face.
Who is your real customer?
This isn’t a trick question. Many companies struggle to define their real markets and customers. Many small companies work with designers, product managers and internal stakeholders who define project specifications without the involvement of the end customer. This is a value chain that we all work with and need. We often work within constraints of our businesses.
But each time we choose options for short-term quarterly gains, we may be giving away a long-term customer strategy. In effect, we’re working for a customer that’s internal and not our real end customer. The moment we allow internal stakeholders to be the final decision makers, we’re creating a culture of pretend customers.
Pretend customers know what the final customers want. They often take a customer stance without surveying the actual customer. Pretend customers rely on their own instincts instead of using a data-based approach. They don’t use feedback with context, they simply use it to prove their pre-conceived hypothesis.
How do you check for customer centricity?
We don’t live in a utopian world. It is indeed necessary to make choices that make business sense. But a tactic to ensure you’re customer-centric is simple reliance on contextual data for decision-making. Here are some questions that you need to answer for your brand:
- What processes do you use to decide on a certain feature, platform, resources or method?
- Do you have a sophisticated A/B testing mechanism to be used on big data?
- Are you able to produce sufficient anecdotal evidence for context?
- Who’s making the final decisions? Is it someone who is experienced on the product/service or someone who’s in charge?
- Do you have a customer board/ user group to work with?
- How do you hire, fire, promote or retain teams? Is that based on a feedback mechanism and customer needs? Or are you simply blaming some invisible system?
- Do you have a short-term and a long-term brand strategy in place? Is your team aware of it?
Often short-term cost savings tend to be more expensive in the long run. Unless you’ve passed on every decision through the sieve of customer needs (current or latent) you’re doing a disservice to them. And it’s not good for your products or teams either.
How customer centric are you in your approach?
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