Outside-In: Getting Perspective

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We are all customers of a business. In that role, we’re all able to see things that are apparently invisible to the owners, operators and managers of that company. Take the local grocery store as an example, has it not long puzzled you why the shortest lines (Express Lanes) are given to those who are buying the least? It’s the store with the fresh donuts sign out front and coffee stains on the floor inside. Whether it’s a store, a car rental company, a hotel or any other business we frequent, we’re able to see things they can’t seem to see. So, why is that? I think it’s this simple. In our business, we grow so accustomed to what we do, to what we sell, to whom we serve – it all becomes so familiar, that we forget what it’s like to see our company through the eyes of a customer, particularly to see ourselves for the first time.

So, I’m challenging you to get an outside-in perspective and here are three quick ways you can do it this week.

1. Mystery shop your own company. This is simple to do. You can do it yourself or find someone you trust on your team. Call your own call center. Call your technical support department. Call your receptionist. Walk through some process that a customer would walk through. Don’t let them know you’re calling, just do it. What do you hear and experience? How many times are you handed off between people? If you have a negative experience, don’t focus on the specific experience or the individual, but go deep. What are the processes, measurement systems, information systems and technologies surrounding that experience? Look at the whole system to identify challenges in the relationship between you and your customer.

2. When possible, drop the jargon and talk in real terms with your customers. We all spend a lot of money to hire industry experts, attend industry conferences and read industry trade magazines. They are full of highly technical terms and knowledge that is exclusive to our industry. This is good information so you can manage your business, but when talking with your customers, simple language is best. Talk to them the way you would a friend, honestly and clearly. It’s not a time to dump a lot of technical terms on them. The objective of your communication is their comprehension. When you do this, you’ll find that they understand you better, act on your advice more and tell others about you and your company.

3. The third key to getting an outside-in perspective is that it has to come from the top. Leaders must lead. In every decision and thought process you must demand an outside-in perspective of yourself first, then of your team second. Ask yourself simple questions that bring the customers’ point of view into the dialog – what would a customer think of this? Or, why would a customer want to do this with us? The answers to those questions will challenge your thinking. It’s not enough to do this once in a while, you have to reinforce this message in every setting – in small meetings, in large town halls, repeated over and over again, your team and your company need to know that this is a priority for you.

Few things will radically shift your thinking and energize your company for action quicker than seeing your company operate through the eyes of an outsider. Take action this week and see what you look like from the outside-in.

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