Everything changes, for all of us. In today’s world, there is no sector that is not undergoing or being threatened by dramatic changes induced by technological progress (see our last blog).
The good news is that there is a ‘simple’ way to deal with this change: You ‘just’ have to be ‘customer driven’.
“Oh”, I hear you say, “if that’s it, I don’t have to worry. For years, I am giving my customers what they want.”
But, before you stop reading, that is not being customer driven. This is just what everybody is doing. This is what Nokia and Kodak were doing, before they disappeared. If you just give them what they want, you run behind the facts. And when your customers want something else, you have to hope that there is nobody else that can give it to them, so that you have the time to adapt. Do you think, you will get that much time?
Being ‘customer driven’ goes beyond giving your customers what they want: You have to figure out what they really need. And what they need is normally not your product or service, but a solution to a problem. Take for example the supplier of office furniture Ahrend: Instead of ‘just’ furnishing offices, they also offer ‘Furniture as a Service’. A subscription model that allows its customers to dynamically adopt workspaces to their needs without having to pay for overcapacity. As a consequence of this new business model, it is commercially interesting for Ahrend to increase the lifespan of its products, which again reduces waste and costs for its customers.
But this service is limited to the furniture. Imagine they would take it a step further to offer a fully optimized office solution. They would use smart building concepts for integrated facility, furniture and HR solutions. Not only to look for lowering costs, but to increase the productivity and well-being of employees.
If you focus on your customer needs instead of on your products, you see the change coming. You help your customer to solve their problems and on the way you develop the products and/or services they will want tomorrow. And because you really helped them to anticipate, they have no desire to buy somewhere else. At the same time, you now have the products and/or services your competitors failed to develop – because they were ‘just’ giving their customers what they wanted.
Every business can be customer driven, whether you are a freelancer or a multinational. And you don’t necessarily have to invest big money and buy large software systems. In essence it starts with a customer mindset, that is translated into processes, that collect data that is analyzed and used: to give your customers what they really need in a world that is changing at an ever greater pace.
You probably all know the mails from hotels or restaurants asking for an evaluation after a visit. To me these are not customer but product driven: It is the request for an good evaluation to sell the same service to other people. Customer driven would be, if they asked me what I didn’t like, if there is something I would like to see on the menu or what I liked especially. These would be question about me – and not about them.
This is not about spamming your customer with email offers or brochures. It is being proactive and trying to help your customers. To help them you need to have meaningful conversations. And the more you are listening, the better.
Only if you understand those, you can develop new perspectives and new ways to help your customer.
Very often information that is not directly related to a business transaction, that is not product related, is not recorded. But it is just that extra information that contains the clues for what your customer needs and what bothers him. Make sure this information will not be forgotten.
Re-visit the data and look for patterns: Which topics, problems, needs are typical for a larger group of customers? Brainstorm with an open mind on how these issues could be resolved. And don’t let your thoughts be limited by your current portfolio – for the parts you can’t do yourself, you can always work together with partners.
Use the problem and your idea as input for your innovation process. Because innovation is not about adding new features: It is about solving new problems. Co-create with your customer, work together with others, do what is needed to solve the problem.
If you do this, it will step by step change your mindset and make your business ‘customer driven’. Do you want to know more or need some help? Look on our website or get in contact directly: Sven.Windprechtinger@leapstrat.com.