Monday, January 10, 2011

Customers Matter

This is the ninth blog post regarding the 10 Things I Accidentally Learned on the Path to Growth. Ther reality is that we must always keep our eye on the customer. It seems so simple and almost foolish to include - but I am amazed at how many of us lose connection with what customers truly want and we miss the boat completely in our solution and service offerings. We have to be willing to get back to basics and listen carefully to what customers are asking for. It isn't about them buying what we want to sell. It is about us offering what they want to buy. We tend to get it backwards sometimes. After all, we are the experts aren't we. We know best what they need. And we go to events where we hear the formulas for how to build the right cloud offer or managed services program so they should just line up.

Customers control the wallet
But that is not exactly how it works from my experience. We can have the greatest services and solutions and never sell any of them if we miss the customer expectations and needs. When we lose sight of this reality - we can set ourselves up for some difficult days at the least. Customers decide when to write checks and for what. So it is critical we listen and listen well. That means we need to spend time with customers - in their offices - observing their pain points. It means we need to pay attention to their requests and study their service utilization. We can learn a lot by just perking up our attention to their needs.

So what are they asking
I don't know about you, but here are some common things we hear from customers in our patch. See if your's are different:

•Reduce my costs
•Use my data
•Get more from my investment
•Help me communicate better
•Prove an ROI
•Just make it work – reliably
•Help my workers be productive anywhere
•What is this cloud thing anyway?

There are some pretty basic requests that continue to come, along with some new things as well. In HTG we see the future this way:

The cloud is causing some confusion and uncertainty in exactly what is needed or wanted as it gets defined and matures - but the basic requests are the same. What may change is how we meet those needs - but customers are pretty consistent. They want to spend less, get more, and have it work all the time.

How are you paying attention
So just what are you doing to hear the voice of the customer. We use surveys and roundtables and face to face discussions. It is important to have ongoing interaction constantly so you are current in meeting their requirements. Don't ignore the need here. If you serve your customers well, they will come. But if you fail to meet or exceed their needs - they quickly vanish. Don't make that mistake. Listen, respone, serve and execute.

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