Don’t be Customer-centric, be Cynthia-centric

Overcoming the challenges of REALLY understanding your customer

In business, we know that understanding customers is critical to success.  Customer experience will never transcend customer understanding.

The reality is that all of your competitors are reading the same market data that you are.  The key to success is stepping out of the norm of statistics where customers are ‘somebody I sell to’, and instead getting to know them on a very deep and real level, understanding their problems and seeking for ways that your business can provide solutions to those problems.

Researchers at Bord Bia spent their nights sleeping on floors in Vietnam in order to really understand the Vietnamese market and create a product ideally suited to the Asian market.  You can read more about it here.

Perhaps the best example on customer understanding is given in this video clip.  Professor Jeanne Liedtka is a business strategist who spoke with the gentleman who runs the custom m&m’s department about his approach to understanding his customers.  In the United States it is nearly impossible to attend a wedding, birthday party or baby shower where customised m&m’s aren’t served.  Jeanne asked how he encouraged his team to be customer centric.  His answer is powerful:

“I don’t ever ask my people to be customer-centric.  I don’t like that idea.  I ask my people to be Cynthia-centric.  Let me tell you about Cynthia.  Cynthia is a young, single mother living on very limited income and as a very special surprise for her son’s fifth birthday she ordered him custom m&m’s – at significant financial sacrifice.  And then we delivered them two days after the party.  What I want my people to do is to realise that we had a chance to make Cynthia’s life better and instead we made it worse.  So, what I want them to do is to think of their customers as Cynthias – not as nameless, faceless customers.”

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your product is, how shiny and beautiful, how high-tech or relevant.  Nobody will buy it if they don’t want it or see a need for it in their lives.  The best way to create a successful product is to reverse engineer.  Start with the problem.  And that comes from understanding your customer.

Generally, a customer won’t come up with a deep insight and hand it to you.  It aligns with the famous Henry Ford quote “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’  The better we know our customers, the more likely it is that we are able to identify unarticulated needs.   Zoning in on these unarticulated needs is really the key to the most profitable growth and the most significant impact on your market.   The thing is, once a customer asks you for something, they are also asking all of your competitors.  This puts you in the position of entering the market in head to head combat with your competitors.  If you are able to spend time with your customers and maintain a focus on really knowing your customers and the problems and challenges they face, you will be in the strongest position to create solutions which in turn will profit your organisation and drive growth.

Interested in learning more about how to understand your customer on a deep level?  www.designthinkingireland.ie



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