I was in a meeting recently where we were making decisions about making changes to certain processes and systems. There were ideas flying with questions about efficiency, cost, and how to train it being stated and contested. It was a lively discussion and I was as caught up in it as anyone until I had a thought that shut me up.
Although I knew it would throw a monkey wrench in the proceedings, I felt compelled to say it so I interjected that we were forgetting something critical. Everyone stopped in their tracks and looked up to learn what great insight I had up my sleeve. What I said brought the discussion to a halt and made us rethink everything. My thought was simply the fact that we had left out one important person in our discussion, the customer. We were making all kinds of decisions that would affect them without putting ourselves in their shoes to feel what they would feel.
How many times do you do the same thing? Making decisions without putting the customer at the center of the conversation is perilous yet companies do it all of the time. Think about Coca-Cola when they rolled out “New Coke” back in 1985. The tried and true Coke that so many loved was replaced by what Coca-Cola thought would be a well-received “New” formula that was sweeter and, what they believed, more desired by the contemporary shopper. This turned into a debacle that forced Coca-Cola to retrace its steps and bring back the original Coke due to a backlash of anger from their tried and true faithful.
Airlines regularly make decisions without any concern for the customer. Think about it. Seats are jammed ever closer together, services are reduced, fees added, etc. all without putting the customer in the room. And what is the result? People hate, yes hate, airlines for the most part. Ask people at airports and they will tell you that they feel like captives with no recourse other than to suffer. If all airline customers would stop flying for a day or two in protest, things would change, I guarantee it.
Is your company putting the customer at the center of your decisions or is profit, cost control, sales, or shareholder value sitting there? Since the customer is the driver of everything in business, it would seem imperative that they take the center chair in every meeting you have. If you are adding something in their experience, you should be asking questions about how it will feel or how it will take more time or how it will make things more or less difficult. Even if you are making decisions that are “back of house” and don’t directly touch the customer, it would seem critical to put the customer in the center and ask how it might affect them, how might it make it more difficult or take more time, etc.
Currently customer centricity is all the rage in the business book world and commands almost 900 titles on Amazon, and although it’s a big topic, it isn’t really that complicated and doesn’t require complex formulas, matrixes or advanced training. It just requires you to answer this question, “is the customer at the center of your business or not?” If they’re not, you are at risk of disloyalty and the fickle nature of human passion, not a good thing in business if you want repeat buyers.
Start today, bring it up, ask the question, “what would our customers think, how would they feel?” Watch the game change.