The Customer as Catalyst

Anyone who’s been in the business world for more than a few weeks knows just how difficult organizational change can be. There seems like a nearly infinite litany of reasons why change (for the better) doesn’t happen.

Today I want to make you a modest proposal regarding organizational change (or organizational improvement, more like it): Start with your customers. And commit to following your customer insights wherever they lead, even all the way to the heart of how your company functions (or dys-functions).

In the end, your company is either going to be about you or them. Especially in today’s economy, them wins.

“You mean we don’t start internally, with employee focus groups? We can handle this.”

Nope, you can’t. You’re too close to the problem to have enough perspective.

Start with your customers. Talk to them. Spend time listening to what they say. Then be brave enough to act, to take a leap into the unknown and see where you land. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Your customers can be the best catalysts for organizational improvement. Perhaps the only catalysts.

How so? Here are a few reasons:

  1. They speak truth to power: You might not like what your customers have to say, but take your lumps and listen. Customers don’t need to couch their language or worry about angering senior management. They have pains, they have needs, and they’re happy to go elsewhere if you don’t help them.
  2. They tell you what’s broken: Customers are great about telling you what you’re doing wrong, as well as what they like. Instead of relying on the sales team’s opinion, you can go directly to the source. Again, customers always feel free to speak freely, whereas your managers might not feel that way, thus creating a dangerous echo-chamber effect.
  3. They can help you capture a greater share of wallet — their wallet: Your best customers want more from you — better offerings, better guarantees, better results in growing their business. If you listen carefully, you can learn what they want and develop richer products and services, priced appropriately, to capture that added customer value. That might just help double or even triple your revenue. It’s a win-win possibility.
  4. They won’t let you serve two masters: If you commit to serving customers, really serving them, your business will be transformed. If your company seriously follows through with a concerted program to listen to, learn from and partner with your customers, it will lead to a series of healthy internal changes within your organization. New wine won’t fit in old wine skins. And that’s a good thing.

My firm, Donnelly Creative, helps companies like yours to do all of these things. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you, please drop us a line. Or just sign up for our free email course on this very topic.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.

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