Merge's Blog

When was the last time you considered your customers’ perspective?

I often talk about how it’s important to change your perspective, both as a leader, and as an employee.  As leaders, we need to think about not just how we look at our operations, but how our clients (internal and external) view our business.  And we need to encourage and train our employees to be able to shift their perspective as well.

Terry O’Reilly made me think, once again, about perspective

Just last week, I had the opportunity to watch and listen to Terry O’Reilly, legendary adman, and host of CBC Radio’s wildly popular show Under the Influence.  Many Canadians will know that Terry, on his show, gives listeners a rare backstage pass into the hallways, boardrooms and recording studios of the ad industry, connecting the dots between pop culture, marketing and human nature.  Terry is a master storyteller and I was absolutely riveted to all that he said.  However, one story resonated with me more than the others.

Terry told of when, several years ago, executives at British Railways realized that they needed to make some marketing changes in order to stay profitable.  They reached out to half a dozen ad agencies, and invited them to put forward proposals to help orchestrate a turnaround in ridership and revenues.  One ad company asked the executives if they would come to their agency offices for a full presentation, to which the executives readily agreed.

You’re going to be surprised by what happened next

At the scheduled date and time, three senior officials from the company made their way to the ad agency offices.  The first thing they noticed when they entered the reception area was the general state of disarray and disrepair.  Empty coffee cups and other rubbish littered the floor, a few of the straight-backed chairs had ripped upholstery, and extensive dust and grime strongly implied that the place hadn’t been cleaned in months.  As they gingerly waited on soiled chairs, the minutes crept forward.  Finally, 50 minutes after the appointed time, the agency staff ushered them into their boardroom, apologizing profusely for the delay.

The creative director opened the presentation with “What you have just experienced is exactly what your riders experience every single day.  If you are willing, we’d like to talk to you about what it will take to change both reality and perceptions.”  As the story goes, this ad agency got the British Railways contract.

When was the last time you considered your customers’ perspective?

Great story, right?  It certainly got me thinking.  Thinking about the trap so many of us fall into as leaders of our departments or our organizations.  We forget to look at things from our customer’s perspective.  To be successful organization – for-profit or not-for-profit – you cannot lose sight of your client or customer.  Always ask yourself the question – what are your end-users seeing?  What are they hearing?  What are they feeling?  Are you dropping the ball when it comes to their expectations?  Are you focusing more on what makes your administrative processes easier rather than on what is of value and benefit to your customer?

I have seen so many situations when companies dupe themselves into thinking that their internal processes should eclipse what their clients need and want.  Whether you are working with external clients or internal users, always stop to look at things through your customers’ eyes.  When you focus first on your relationships with those you serve, you will always achieve a superior outcome.

So what situations have you experienced where departments or organizations forget to view outcomes through the customers’ lens?  I’ve blogged about such situations in the past.

But I’d love to know what you’ve observed and what you think.  Please share by commenting below.

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