Give the Customers What They Want!

If you have not heard that in today’s world the customer is in charge, then you probably have been either living under a rock or working too hard just trying to make a living.  Of course we are all customers ourselves, and as customers, we know exactly what we want.  But getting and giving are two different things, and when we are serving our own customers, and trying to make a profit at the same time, it doesn’t look so easy anymore.

There has been plenty of talk in the past few years about the rise of the Customer.  Crowdsourcing, Opensource, Customer Centric Marketing, the work of Seth Godin and many other Web 2.0 thinkers, David Meerman Scott’s excellent book The New Rules of PR and Marketing, are all examples of a new kind of thinking and understanding about how businesses must relate to customers.  Or perhaps more properly, how Customers have become King.  

But talk, as they say, is cheap.  I learned a great deal from working on a book project with the aforementioned Mr. Scott, another really excellent book about learning to listen, called Tuned In.  Brought on to work with the authors and publisher, I unwittingly displayed a singularly unenlightened view of this new style of marketing on a regular basis.  It was a humbling experience for me, as I have thought of myself as a customer centric thinker for a really long time.  

I regularly read a newsletter put out by Mark Hurst, called Good Experience.  He is a terrific writer and thinker about Customer Experience, among many other interests he has.  In his January 7th newsletter, he went straight to the point, and I felt it was such a good piece of work, I wanted to bring it forward to my own network of friends and colleagues.

I asked Mark for permission to quote extensively from his newsletter, which he kindly gave me.  A link to his website appears at the end of this essay.  I highly recommend you visit, subscribe to his weekly email newsletter and delve into the resources he provides.

A key point Mark makes that should be obvious, but of course never is: “Customer experience is really easy to understand. You just have to be willing to keep it simple.

It all starts with this. There are two parts to customer experience: the customer, and the experience.”

That’s Lesson Number One!  Another seemingly obvious point, to be remembered as a mantra:

“The CUSTOMER is a person.  A human being.  Your neighbor, your aunt, your postman, your car mechanic, your librarian. This is a person who deserves to be listened to, not just "monetized" or reduced to a number in a database somewhere in the cloud.”

That’s Lesson Number Two!  

“The EXPERIENCE is everything that happens to that person as they interact with your company. It all comes to them as *one* experience. Your company might have five silos or three operating units or eighteen warring factions, but for better or worse they create just one experience for that customer.”

That’s Lesson Number Three!  In sum, it all comes down to the customer and the experience.

Now we’ve pounded these lessons into our numbed skulls, we can go on:

“Now, the next step is to create a *good* experience, and for that you have to do two things:

1. Treat the customer as a human being (i.e., listen to them).

2. Look at the experience from the customer’s perspective (i.e., empathize with them).

In other words, to create a good experience, just act in response to the ideas above: the customer is a person, and the experience is the one single everything that happens to them.”

Could this be any easier?  One wonders.  If it is so easy, why do so few companies succeed at creating truly wonderful customer experiences?  We all know how to provide them, we all know it when we experience them.  How hard is it?  Very hard it would seem.  My favorite line from an early Who song comes to mind: “The simple things you see are all complicated.”

As Mark Hurst says, it really is simple.  But I think today, in order to provide a truly good customer experience, we have to change the way we think, even the way we talk about our business relationships.  The language of marketing, the practices of selling, even the processes of publishing themselves, are often hierarchical, top down, “I have built it, now go out and sell it” kinds of operators.  We need to change all of that.  As Mark says, empathize with your customers.  Once you understand who they are and what they are looking for, it will become much simpler to create experiences that truly engage them.

Quotes above are reprinted with the permission of Mark Hurst of Good Experience.

Posted by David Wilk on 01/22 at 07:37 PM
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