Are Your Systems Customer Centered?
I was amused and encouraged recently as I read a newspaper article detailing the frustration of coffee drinkers who wait in line to procure a simple cup of black coffee. This has long been a bugaboo of mine and it was nice to learn I’m not alone.
I enjoy my coffee about as basic as it gets; just black. No cream, no sugar or other sweeteners. When on the go, I often stop for a container of coffee. Frequently, I find myself in a queue, standing behind the person who orders a concoction something like a mocha, boca, skim, no foam with a double shot of who knows what. Patience is not my strong suit. It occurs to me that it takes this customer longer to say this than it would for the server to provide me with my simple cup of black coffee. And no, I won’t be needing “room for cream?”
Predictably, this article engendered a passionate response from readers as evidenced by the number of letters posted in the paper a few days later. There was no shortage of advice for both customers (“buy an inexpensive coffee maker and a thermos”) and for the coffee retailers (“how about an express line for basic coffee customers?”). There was even a recommendation from a financial advisor who did a simple calculation and concluded that these “designer coffee” customers were denying themselves of a significant addition to their retirement accounts (five dollars a day per cup, five days a week over forty years … do the math!).
My takeaway though is this. How many businesses fail to observe their customers at the point of interaction to see where and how they might make the transaction smoother and easier? Looking at it another way, do businesses review their internal practices and procedures from the outside in; that is, from the customer’s point of view?
There is much to be said for operational excellence (the topic for the next Graphic Communications Leadership Institute workshop). It is essential that workflows and processes be as smooth, predictable, repeatable, and as easy to learn as possible. However, the quest for efficiency must also take into account the customer experience and may be prioritized by what customers want and expect on a regular basis. It isn’t difficult to find this out. Simply ask and observe.
In his best-selling book “The Art of Innovation,” author and founder of IDEO Tom Kelley describes their firm’s fundamental approach to helping their clients innovate and be more proactive in anticipating and addressing customer preferences and eliminating their frustrations. They observe customers using their clients’ products and make careful notes of what works and what doesn’t, or at least, what could be improved (check out their shopping cart video on youtube).
How much time is spent by your team members observing and listening to customers? What are your internal processes for sharing this information and for crafting new applications and approaches in response?
For more information and ideas you can use to align customer expectations with internal processes, contact me at email@example.com.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.