That’s obvious, isn’t it? Well, it should be, but we often behave as though our customers must meet our needs. Think about it. Do you impose deadlines on your customers to make life easier for you? Are your pricing schemes aimed at getting customers to buy the way you want them to buy rather than the way they would prefer to buy? Do you try to sell your customers the products or services you want to move rather than the products or services they want to buy?
Clearly, we need to structure our organization to make it as efficient and effective as possible. But an efficient, effective organization is not at odds with meeting customer needs. The problem is change. We may have started out meeting customer needs dead on, but then their needs changed. The systems and procedures we put in place to serve the old customer needs don’t work so well with the new customer needs. But it’s expensive and time-consuming to change the way we do things, so we try to shoehorn the new customer needs into our old structure. We may get away with that for awhile, but pretty soon, someone else will figure out a better way to meet our customers’ needs, and then we’re out of the game.
Take an inventory of every rule and policy you have in place that affects customers. In each case, ask yourself if the rule or policy is there to serve customers or to serve you. If it’s there to serve you, it may be a red flag that we’re not serving customers as well as we might.
Better yet, have a frank discussion with your customers aimed at uncovering any unmet needs. And be open-minded with the feedback you get. Even though customers may want something that is seemingly outrageous, give serious thought to how it might be done. Remember, if you can’t figure out how to meet your customers’ needs, someone else will.