Starting With The Customer: Are You Putting Theory Into Practice?

With the amount of thought leadership, industry reports, and real-life examples on the changing customer landscape, all businesses today are aware of the importance of listening to and understanding their customers. But when it comes to actually putting this theory into practice, many companies are still falling short.
 
While the challenges that make it difficult for companies to succeed will be specific to the type of business (among a variety of other factors that contribute to its unique situation), there are a few key factors that greatly contribute to its success:
 
  1. Management that sets the tone: Creating a culture where employees feel empowered to start with the customer is difficult without the proper leadership. Enabling and rewarding employees to not only think through the customer lens, but more importantly, take bold steps in doing what is best for the customers can be a big driver of success in implementing and maintaining  this philosophy.
  2. Promoting collaboration to drive innovation, both internally and externally: Companies require many different teams to function but valuable customer insights often get lost in this complexity. Encouraging regular cross-team sharing of insights and ideas that have customers at their core will promote the right focus on company strategy, and also keep the momentum going across the organization. Similarly, collaborating with customers to understand and test new ideas or offerings will help businesses provide more relevant solutions that will actually meet those customers’ needs.
  3. Investing in the proper tools and infrastructure: Starting with the customer and understanding their needs is a much easier process if the proper systems and tools are in place to gather feedback and extract actionable insights. Furthermore, it’s important to ensure that you are capturing the right types of information, which includes not only descriptive data, such as demographics and behaviors, but also ongoing customer feedback, which will steer the prioritization of improvements.
It’s certainly possible for a company to find success with single projects and plans without having all of the above in place. However, to truly integrate this customer-first philosophy into a company’s core DNA and energize the whole organization behind customer-driven innovation in a way that can be sustained for the longer term, having all of these elements in place is crucial.
 
Groupon’s former CEO stated in a letter to the company earlier this year: “If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers.”
 
Do you have the courage to start with your customers? And if so, do you have the right elements in place to do so?
 
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