Insights | By Howard Tiersky

5 Steps to Thinking More Like Your Customer

You’ve seen the light. You’re thinking like your customers, but how do you get the rest of your organization to do the same?

You’re convinced that putting the customer first is smart business, but how do you get your internally-focused, product-centric leaders and employees to think this way, too. Here are five ways to get them to think “customer.”

Those perceived as leading in management of the customer experience performed nearly twice as well as those companies seen as lagging in key metrics like revenue, profit, and quality. 

First, find compelling statistics. Numbers speak volumes.  Quoted statistics about success other marketplace leaders have had can be great motivators to change views, particularly for leadership. For example, look at Harvard Business Review (2014), Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Management. This study of 400 companies shows that those perceived as leading in management of the customer experience performed nearly twice as well as those companies seen as lagging in key metrics like revenue, profit, and quality.  That’s pretty convincing!

Second, talk to your customers.  Find out what customers and non-customers alike are thinking and doing and why they do it. Learn from online analytics. Watch customers in action. Talk to customers about the broader context such as how they plan trips to Broadway shows (Shubert) or how they plan trips to Orlando (Universal Orlando) or how they decide what transport to use for short distances (Avis).

  • What is their overall process in going about the task at hand?
  • How do they find out about companies like yours?
  • What is their mindset as they search, shop, purchase, experience/use, and share?
  • What tools and sources of information do they prefer to use?
  • What are the customer and non-customer perception of your company, products, and services in this context?
  • What is their experience interacting with your company?

For Avis, compelling error reporting plus videos clips of frustrated customers using their website anchored the case for funding key enhancements.  Avis reaped significant rewards from these updates and, in turn, felt even more confident as they made a case for a major overhaul later.

Survey statistics, site analytics, bold customer quotes, and/or some video of customers in action do wonders to shift leadership and employees from skeptics to advocates — “Why are we not doing this already?” 

Third, create shareable eye-catching diagrams.  A picture is worth a thousand words. Lists and spreadsheets of data can put people to sleep, but they love pictures. Show the step-by-step customer experience today, warts and all, and then contrast that with the exciting possibility of what could be.  Pepper in insight about the customer mindset and your company goals and how your digital experience will address both.  Call out how new tools or capabilities will support this new experience.  The power of an eye-catching design is that people will often do the sharing for you.  At Moody’s, executives posted the customer experience charts on their office wall. At American Girl, a storyboard view of the experience was ultimately put to music and shared company-wide.

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Fourth, get your team involved.  There is nothing like firsthand experience.  Have your team observe customers and sit in on interviews.  Not only do they have deep context for helping to interpret some observations more effectively, but they can become instant evangelists for the customer view and what the customer deserves. We saw this when Shubert team members sat in on interviews about the Broadway show-goer experience or in visits to independent insurance agents to see how they might like the new interface Allstate was building.  Employees, excited about what they saw, then spread the word to leadership and peers with little prompting.

To engage more team members at once, do a workshop and dive into the customer experience together.  At American Girl, FROM did a workshop where the team took turns acting out each step of the customer experience - from the beginning of the relationship to where a customer is a loyal advocate.  It got them thinking like customers while also giving them some good laughs as they exercised their dramatic acting skills.

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Fifth, create new metrics.  In the longer term, ultimately, the way to drive new behaviors in your employees is to put metrics in place that measure those behaviors.  For example, if you start reporting on the value and duration of the customer relationship, you’ll see your team take action to increase that value and duration.  Or, if you focus energy on engagement metrics - how much your customers are interacting with you - you’ll see employees shift their attention to creating a much richer interactive end-to-end experience to increase customer engagement.  If you don’t measure it, you cannot expect it to change.

So, there you have it - 5 steps to getting your team to think more like your customer:  

  1. Find compelling statistics
  2. Talk to you customers
  3. Create shareable eye-catching diagrams
  4. Get your team involved
  5. Create new metrics  

Please reach out to FROM to gain more insight into any of these tactics that can help you build a more customer-centric organization.