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Wednesday
Feb222012

Rethinking Your Business (Part 2)

How to start the rethinking process by focusing on the customer experience

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed why you need to rethink the role of technology in your business.  The main drivers were:  changing customer expectations, increased competitive pressure, and the emergence of new technologies.

So you’re ready to rethink the role of technology in your business.  Where do you start?  Choosing technology begins with stepping into your customers’ shoes and rethinking your business itself.  Before you can select a solution, you need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish for your business and your customers.

With that in mind, start with the overall customer experience you want to create and work back towards the technology.  Think about your business and your customers and consider the following questions:

  • What do your customers really care about?  Time, money, convenience, risk?
  • What’s the ultimate benefit they receive from your products or services? 
  • What are the frustrations your customers experience?  Why?
  • How many of these are taken as givens by the rest of your industry?
  • What are companies in other industries doing?  Could these ideas be applied to your business?
  • Are there regulations impacting you or your customers?

The Importance of Listening

Chances are you’ll come up with several useful insights and probably a few additional questions.  So far so good.  Now it’s time to get out of the office and listen to real life customers.   

Here’s a great way to get the conversation started – ask your customers where they would invest in your business to get better results for themselves.  Ask why.  Listen.  They will likely tell you how to tweak what you already do well and point out areas where you need to improve.  Go through the above questions with them.  Again, ask why and avoid the temptation to defend your current practices and really listen.

“Why?” is a really powerful question.  Many times people respond with ideas and feedback in the form of solutions:  you need after hours support, or you should email me a confirmation.  Asking why can help you identify the underlying problem or need that’s being expressed.  Don’t take solutions at face value – keep digging until you uncover the real issue or objective.

During your conversations some people will talk about problems.  Others will discuss needs or ideas.  The only difference between a problem and an idea is the language used to describe it.  With a bit of creative thinking and word play, you can transform a problem into an idea that you can get excited about.

Get to Know Your Competition

The next part is trickier, but well worth the effort.  Talk to your competitors’ customers.  This is not a sales call!  What do they value most?  What improvements would they like to see made?  What drew them to the competition in the first place?  Did they consider your company?  Again, ask why and listen.

Understanding your competition can help you in two ways.  First, you may find that you actually serve different market segments.  For example, your competition may target customers that want to tweak and configure while you aim for customers that want a turnkey approach.  Guess what?  Your two companies should work out a referral or lead swap program.

Second, you may learn where you can, or do, offer a better product or service than your competition.  In both cases you have learned how to better differentiate your company.  You can now help prospective customers understand when they should pick you and why.

Rethinking the role of technology in your business starts with the customer.  What problems or frustrations do they have?  What improvements would they make if it were their business?   How can the customer experience be improved?

In Part 3, we’ll discuss how to organize the feedback you’ve received to identify common themes and determine which ideas hold the most value for your business and your customers.