Seeing through your customers’ eyes

It’s not easy to think like a customer. In Made to Stick, the Heath Brothers talk about “The Curse of Knowledge.” We often know so much about a topic that we simply can’t understand the perspective of those who don’t know as much.

This is critical to keep in mind as you develop your customer experience. We get so accustomed to the way things are that it takes a very deliberate effort to step back and see it from a customer’s perspective.  Over-featured phones, sales-prevention processes and convulated forms are constant reminders of what happens when you design the experience from a company-centric eye.

Seeing things through the customer’s eye is clearly critical to developing a successful experience. The challenge is:  how do I do it?  And how do I get the rest of my company to think this way?

Retailers have a fairly easy to watch customers shop. But that doesn’t mean they necessarily do it.  In Why We Buy, Paco Underhill tells a story about working with Macy’s. While they were investigating a different part of the store, their cameras also picked up a tie rack on the race track, and they saw something amazing. Particularly on busy days, customers would browse for ties until somebody walked close behind them and accidentally brushed their backside as they went by – what Underhill called “butt brush.” Once customers (especially women) experienced butt brush they immediately abandoned shopping. Once the problem was spotted, the response was easy. Macy’s moved the tie rack and sales increased immediately!

But how many store associates walked by that tie rack every day? If you take the time, you will realize that there are dozens of ways to improve the customer experience right in front of you. But we’re often so busy running the business that we miss simple opportunities to improve our customer’s lives, and thus our results.

Retailers have no excuse for these types of problems. In the Lund’s example from my earlier post, how much effort does it take to walk a store and look for problems? But how often do we do it? Clearly, not often enough!

But this opportunity extends far beyond retail. Almost every service business has its own way of going “undercover customer.” While the watching cannot always be literal, customers share their experience in more ways than you might expect. Intuit developed its software by following people home to watch them install it, recording every misstep or issue along the way.  At a healthcare financial services provider we “watched” our customers by matching behavioral data with demographics to get a better understanding of who was opening accounts and how they saved or spent their dollars.  Clickstreams are another example – who is using your website, and how? Where do they come from, and where do they go next?  Use inductive reasoning to look for trends, and use these to improve your customer experience.

Watching customers helps you understand what they actually do, breaking your myths about your customers’ behavior.  Have you watched your customers today?

3 replies
  1. Avatar
    Rob R says:

    Grocery store chains and big boxes are very sophisticated about this. There is a lot to be learned from what the big boys and girls are doing. Modern Marvels on History Channel did an excellent job of showing just how far stores are going to get inside their customers heads, especially grocery chains.

    Reply
  2. Jim Tincher
    Jim Tincher says:

    Rob,

    Yes, there are definitely some great examples out there. P&G is another great example, as outlined in The Game Changer – a must-read. I don’t know about the Modern Marvels show – I’ll have to see if I can find it.

    The problem is that, while there are some great examples, the majority are using their gut and making decisions from their office. The easiest thing is to use your experience. But simply by working for the company, you’re no longer “normal,” and it takes deliberate effort to keep the customer’s perspective fresh!

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Shawn Phillips says:

    I have worked for various retail outfits and my experience is that a few talented people at the local level see opportunities and react. These great ideas are not bubbled up and shared as often as one would like.

    Reply

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