A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a marketing conference hosted by Experticity, a leading industry educational partner and set of tools. It was a great conference hosted up at the St. Regis in Deer Valley, Utah. This was a gorgeous setting and an excellent conference.

They brought in some great presenters. One of those was Phil Terry from Collaborative Gain. He spoke on keeping our companies as customer included businesses. This means that we are responsible for building what we do as businesses around our customer, this is not just limited to customer service, but to the products that we make, the way we market and sell them, the way we deliver them and the way that we service and communicate with these customers.

Customer Excluded Business Practices

The first thing that Phil had us do was to shout out ways that we as businesses could exclude, alienate or disregard our customers. Some of the items listed were as follows:

  • Don’t answer the phone or do answer, but leave them on hold
  • Delay product shipping
  • Develop products that don’t perform as promised
  • Hard sell
  • Overpromise and underdeliver
  • Seek only profit margins
  • And many more items were discussed

As we think about the contrarion view then we can start looking at what we can do better. We start to see where our business may have holes. We can then assess from bad practices on what we must do to improve our business and provide the customer with the user experience that they need and desire.

Who Are You For?

“We’re for the industry lovers. The information seekers. The people pleasers. The humble yet bona-fide pros. For the everyday teachers whose classroom just happens to be the sales floor or the mountainside — because that’s where their hard-earned knowledge helps people decide what to buy.”- Experticity “About Us” page

As you can see the primary focus of Experticity is the customer that they serve. They want to cater to those that are want for information and love of brands. They get it! They are all about bringing brands the educated advocates to help them build and grow for tomorrow’s business. We live in a very word of mouth society. People talk, share, pin, post, tweet, like and review nearly everything. Companies like Experticity, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter have made a living and viable business on these such practices. It has made the voice of the consumer louder than ever. These businesses, as well as thousands more, understand their business purpose and how to bring that purpose to the end consumer and deliver the best possible outcome.

One of the great questions every business needs to sit back and ask themselves is who they are in business for. Are you in business for yourself? Are you in business for your shareholders? Are you in business for your employee? Or are you in business for your customers? I am hoping that you answered the latter. Yes, we need to deliver profits to be able to maintain as a business, but with the transparent business practices of today we will have no profit without appeasing the customer. How many times has a business sat down and thought “this is exactly what our customer wants” only to find that the product did not sell or the service was not utilized. Phil shares an example in his book around Netflix and when they had altered their algorithm to be “more user friendly”. They found the consumer did not like it and they lost business until they fixed it to something that the consumer wanted and could use.

Develop For Your Customer

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it and I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I’ve got the scars to prove it.” Steve Jobs at 1997 WWDC

Too often in business we build a product hoping or expecting the customer to want it. The best show of this as poor practice is all of the hundreds of companies that try to crowdfund on various sites and they go nowhere. You must know what your consumer needs. As seen in the Steve Jobs quote above, he understand that and infused that into Apple. Today, we continue to see Tim Cook do the same thing. They are forward thinking and bring things that we never thought that we would want or need to the market. Sometimes too soon like the MacBook Air, but they understand their consumer and it is embraced.

Not saying that Apple is perfect, not many companies are. We see flops all the time. We see hiccups. It is our job as business owners and executives to reduce those by understanding who our target audience is and what they will use and want.

“Find the unmet needs of your customer and innovate around that” Phil Terry in Customers Included

Get Out Into The Wild

One of the key ways to understand how the consumer thinks is to go where they are. Get out there to analyze their behaviors. To truly understand your customer you need to see them inside of their element with your product or service. There are a couple of key experiences that Phil shared with us.

Brooklyn Park – The Brooklyn Park was designed and built by the same group that had done Central Park in Manhattan. The city of Brooklyn wanted a respite in their city as well. It had been a big success as a city park, but then became stagnant. After years of drug traffic, prostitution and a major decline of family usage at the park the city passed the bill to improve it. They then improved the internal area of the park with all sorts of attractions. However, these attractions did not seem to improve the traffic. So on the Fourth of July Phil got the city board to leave their families and analyze the park activity on the busiest day of the year. They interviewed a few people and many did not even know that those attractions existed. They had tried the Field of Dreams theory, but unfortunately they did not come. From this analyzation they saw that they needed to improve the signage and awareness of the central attractions.

Gateway Computers – Gateway was an up and coming brand during the computer boom of the 90’s. They were providing a build your own computer experience online. They wanted to grow their business from hardcore tech geeks to the general public. Another approach they had was to take on Dell. Phil’s group talked them into focusing on packaged sets for the general public, but a key to this was showing the lack of ease on their current website. He was able to get all of the executives into a research scenario where they could analyze customer behaviors while shopping online for a computer on the Gateway site. Through this they were able to discover the inefficiencies on their website and enhance the overall user experience. This lead to record growth and being a power in the home computing industry while Dell owned the business side. Ultimately the desire to have a piece of the business computing industry overtook them and was their demise, but for two solid years they succeeded by focusing on the end consumers’ needs and wants in relation to buying a computer and Gateway reaped the benefits.

Focus On The Basic Needs

Too often we get caught up in the excitement and internal discussion around a product that we lose sight of what the consumer wants. Egos get in the way, hope and excitement cloud our judgement and we lose the basic premise for what is right for the customer. We need to get back down to what our customer wants and likes and needs. Once we know that then we can build items that will best suite those needs. Sometimes reaching out directly to our customer base for voting on an item, preordering it or letting them share their voice can really help us build a superior product. Bring the heart and the head together. Start with the customer experience and then build from there.

Shut up and listen!

Too often we are too loud inside our own corporate heads to take advice from the customer. We feel that we know the best and we know what is right. Often that is not correct. We just need to quite ourselves and listen to the customer. Often they are telling us exactly what we need to hear. Whether it is about how great a previous product was or how we could’ve improved on a certain level of service. They want us to improve. They love our brands. We just need to listen to them.

We need to put the customer as a priority in our business. If not, then we won’t be in business.