Arctic temperatures and 18″ of snow do not invalidate my dog’s need to go for his walks. Both of us bundle up in coats, I’m wearing thermal underwear and wool sweaters (I know, TMI), I open the door, we look at each other, and Copper trudges out with me in tow.
He’s my canine customer. I do everything possible to make him happy. Regardless of the temperature, the rain or snow, or the time of day, he has to do his business. There are days when it feels like drudgery (well, for me anyway). Predominantly when the wind chill is -15 degrees. I’ve tried numerous times to put dog booties on him, especially with the combination of cold and snow. He won’t have any of it. Again, he’s the customer. I will keep trying, but I can’t guarantee success. UPS is happy, though, delivering and picking up our attempts. Thanks, Amazon Prime.
As my consulting business has steadily improved (woot! / woof?), I consider what I can do better to help my customers. I’ll continue asking more questions and remaining an objective third party. I often ask “What keeps you up at night?” or “Why is that important to you?” I realize that I should be asking “Why is that important to your customer?”
Meeting your customer’s needs leads to success.
That’s a pretty simple statement. However, when you implement your strategic plan, you must tie everything back to the customer. For example, consider the strategic goal of Being the Low-Cost Purveyor of Fine Wines. As a business, it means that you can be competitive by maintaining a price margin that allows you to make some money. Is that important to your customer? Not really. Customers generally assume you’re making money. They implicitly care about the fact that you are able to provide them a fine wine at a value with which they are comfortable.
IT needs to follow this concept too. You can change the conversation from bits and bytes to customer value. Instead of “we need to upgrade the CPU on the database server because it’s at 90% utilization,” try “Our CRM system is so popular with our sales team that we need to add capacity to meet their needs.” Aligning the focus towards the customer instead of the technology helps everyone understand the business problem and often leads to funding. Keep it simple and clear.
Which leads me back to Copper. I don’t need to explain a lot to him. “Walk”, “treat”, and “ride” trigger immediate four-legged action. Those are important to him as the customer. And maybe a fire hydrant.