Monday, Nov 24, 2014

From the discomfort zone: For customer value

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Posted: August 3, 2014 12:31 am

In the 30 years I’ve been an entrepreneur consultant, I’ve had the opportunity of sitting with senior management teams from enterprises in diverse industries to infuse customer centricity into their products and services. This has been both a pleasurable experience and the toughest job in my business life.

I’ve always faced two types of clients; those interested in achieving customer centricity, and the large section that’s quite indifferent. The interested ones put tremendous effort to understand how core the customer is. They drive hard to inject this core inside their organisation, facing the difficult job of changing employee behaviour. The second type of clients enters the comfort zone of ad hoc adaptability. They deliver what’s feasible as per their backend capability and act as though customers will accept it. This is the trouble-free route of changing the bottle, not the wine; and hoping against hoping that customers will not notice.

Without end-customers, where is business? Enterprises agree to this, but miss out on driving it seriously as business truth. It makes me uncomfortable when managers barely try to understand the end-customer’s subconscious mind where buying motivation resides. I cannot fathom why trying to own the end-customer’s mindshare is not the first priority of every enterprise. If an enterprise can find out what to do to change the end-customer’s behaviour towards favouring its product or service, that enterprise can smile all the way to the bank.

I believe in non-stop enterprise learning using customers as teachers and insight dispensers for business improvement. The ability to absorb human culture and behaviour, anticipate economic and political phenomena in advance, co-opt technology advancement and dig deep into the social and psychological aspects are all necessary at this level to know how to respond to the market. But industrial heaviness sometimes becomes so overpowering that managers get waylaid from the track of discovering and satisfying end-customer need or desire.

Because managers do not always live in the end-customer’s domain, it becomes difficult to make them understand micro layers of end-customer centricity. To tell you the truth, I’m addicted to observing human behaviour. Wherever I am, with the family, in the sports ground, entertainment or seminars, condolence visits, while travelling, watching television, Internet surfing, visiting museums, or receiving response from my readers, my eye turns to watch behavioural traits and reactions. The rapport between people of any age and economic stratum, their relationship with some product or service, is indeed very telling.

No matter where and in which country I am, I don’t hesitate to ask if something raises my curiosity. ‘Why’ is something I never ask as the person gets intimidated; it’s the ‘how’ I enquire about, and learn about the purpose. Learning can never be achieved when you are in the challenger mode. Rather I try to make learning conducive for both of us, me the learner and the end-customer as teacher. These ingredients have helped me understand end-customers in every industry wherever I have entered because no industry can run without an end-customer. Challenging a learning seed is continued…

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