Engaging Customers from the Get Go


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Do You Really Want Customers Co-Designing Your Business?

I’m currently engaged in the design of a new set of healthcare and wellness services for and with the people in my community. At a strategic planning meeting last week, I was caught short when one of our most committed volunteers looked around the room and said, “when and how should we be engaging with our customers?” I was taken aback. I thought we were the customers! But then I realized that, as soon as you begin to plan a strategy, develop a business plan, and design a set of services or products, you become the company. At that point, you need to re-inject the fresh perspective of the end-customers for the services you’re designing. It’s not really viable for a group of smart, committed people and subject matter experts to design and unveil something, even if you’re designing a set of services you’ll be using yourselves. That’s still the “if we build it; they will come ” model.

When Should Customers Be Engaged?

You need to constantly engage with new prospective customers to get them engaged and co-designing. And you need to do that from the get go. Not just when you’re about to unveil your pilot. The more prospective customers lend a hand, roll up their sleeves, and get involved, the larger your base of committed fans. And the more new people you engage along the way, the greater the likelihood that you’ll always be customer-centric in your design. After all, customers’ needs change, competitors’ inject new challenges, customers’ experiences with businesses in other industries raise their expectations, new regulations require you to develop customer-friendly processes.

So, it’s never too early, nor too late, to engage with thoughtful, insightful customers and prospects to gain a fresh perspective.

What’s the Most Valuable Input Your Prospective Customers Can Provide?

Where’s a good place to focus your target customers’ attention? Have them work through how they want to get things done and what their criteria for success are. What context(s) are they in? How much time do they want to spend? How much information do they need and what kinds of information? What issues are going to get in their way and how would they like those handled? If your customers can identify their likely showstoppers and their success metrics, and all of your employees, volunteers, and subject matter experts sign up to help customers meet or beat those success criteria, you’re a customer-centric organization.

One of my favorite examples comes from Eli Lilly, where the R&D team had developed and the commercial team had tested and introduced a drug to alleviate the symptoms of people suffering from bi-polar disorders—a form of mental illness. What was the patients’ desired outcome? Being able to have and keep a job they enjoyed in a career they loved. So, rather than focusing primarily on the efficacy of the drug, the Eli Lilly team worked with the patients and the ecosystem of care-givers, family members, social workers, and employers to ensure that as many patients as possible got back to work quickly and stayed happily employed. That’s how they measured success.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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