Businesses are re-discovering the customer! After years of inward focussed, efficiency-driven business doing, where the bottom line is a result of a business’ savviness, rather than of customers’ engagement, the focus now is shifting. With companies like Apple and Nike thriving on the dedication of their devoted and happy-spending customers, others want to follow suit. The question remains how to grow a customer base as loyal and motivated as the one of Apple: loyalty is not enough, customers also need to spent and motivate others to do the same! more…
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What a surprise! Just when he was ready to pay the customer took a final glance at the bill and noticed that the prices changed: not the 21 euro for the main dish, but 32,50; not the 9,50 for the dessert, but 15,80… Upon inquiring why the difference, he got a straight answer back – „the kitchen crew needed more time than planned and that’s why the costs have increased!“
As expected it came up right away: a call for strict separation of what is regarded as life (private), and what is regarded as work (vocational). As a reaction to my request to the audience – to reflect their level of customer-centricity between ‚zero‘ and ‚full‘ on a graph – somebody wanted to know if she had to reflect her opinion or the one of her employer: because that would be quite a difference!
It’s that time of the year again: the plants are just about to stick their heads out of the ground, and shop owners are already considering moving on from bikinis and sunglasses. The soil is still soaking wet and messy from winter, and the first optimists are running around in flip-flops! And the more you have experienced theses seasonal changes, the more you become aware that the seasons are way too short!
The room was slowly filling up with the employees. One after the other they took their seats and didn’t look too pleased: the speech that I was about to be holding did interrupt the longed-for transition from their dinner to a well-deserved drink at the bar! So this left me with the task to ensure that those snaring away during my talk would not animate the others to follow suit.
It was tough times for me, being a designer and being employed at a company that defined its reasoning based on financial indications, like turnover, gross margin, return on investment, and so on. Eventually also you, as a designer, have to define your reasoning according to such parameters. Unavoidably the question on the ‘return on investment’ (ROI) will pop-up, like “What do I get back for every Euro I spent on design? Tell me, what’s actually the ROI of design?”
The coordinated interplay of the various departments within a company is a similar challenge to steering a fleet on the wide ocean: how can you direct the various vessels in such a way that they behave like a fleet, and not like a bunch of uncoordinated pirate ships aloof? more…
Dedicated to Steve, the biggest chef of all!
There are plenty of these TV shows around, those, featuring slick chefs who pimps-up hopelessly ran down restaurants. Their recipe: provide some expert advice and several well-placed helping hands, all to have each head in the restaurant face the same direction. With these measures, there is hope that the ‘re-designed’ establishment will finally appeal to the taste of the customer. If this is accomplished, and the customers are thrilled by the experience they have had, it might lead them to recommend the place to their friends, instead of discouraging them to even consider – not only for restaurants, this is the driver for sustainable growth. more…
Focus on the customer and the income will follow – any advice that’s common in many business textbooks. Sounds logical, and it is. If you do focus on the customer and give him what he needs, you should do everything right to create a commercial success with whatever your product or service might be. But, who is the customer, and how do you know what he needs?
In most cases, their needs are not obvious; in most cases, they do not know what they need; they can only articulate what they want.
In most cases, the consumer’s needs are driven by a fundamental one, of which there are not too many around: among the few basic ones are security, belonging, stimulation, autonomy or physicality. Physicality, for instance, drives the need for food: but only in combination with another requirement, like stimulation, ingestion turns into a restaurant visit. We know this from Maslow’s pyramid.
In our new economy, it’s all about the fulfilment of experiences, rather than to secure the more basic requirements of everyday life (to stick with Maslow). Customers in the ‘experience economy’ need to be holistically and simultaneously served in their needs, before they decide on a product or service, and then consume. It’s no longer sufficient to be the cheapest, the smartest or the most competitive offer around – it all depends on the experience provided, and if this experience fits the consumer’s personality.
Designers and developers, therefore, need empathy if they want to meet these ‘un-articulated’ needs. They need an antenna to receive the correct signals emitted by the consumers and the market place. Because in the end, the solutions that sustain and succeed on the market are those who can design and provide an experience in line with consumer’s need.
For the technology-driven industry, this opposes an enormous challenge, since they produce for the masses and therefore do not know their customer anymore – they became to plenty in size, shape, sex and spending power. Nevertheless, they need to focus on the customer to whom they address their brand’s promise to be authentic. And they need to know the customer or user to conceive products and services for them. And this can never be everybody: If you design an experience for everybody, you will fulfil nobodies needs!
In this challenge, the high-tech mass-production industry, as well as any small enterprise, can learn a lot from the hospitality business. The quick hunger is served well by a fries-parlour: clear and straightforward menu, legible from the queue, quick preparation, swift service and low prices. A triple star restaurant delivers culinary delight within the appropriate ambience and against corresponding prices. Irrelevant how ingestion is turned into a service offer, it is in the experience and the soundness thereof if the consumer accepts it – and thereby delivers the income in a sustainable, profitable way.
And this is a real challenge to an industry that’s driven by standardization: so far the marketing experts were using shotguns to hit the market, based on the motto: better we just hit someone, than missing out completely using an accurate shot.
But today you have to focus well and aim at that which delivers a real valuable return: in satisfying your (and not anybody’s) customers need, in providing an experience for them. This way, you can genuinely create a loyal customer base, one that will grow your business sustainably.