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Customers go a long way to explain what they need

“From now on we are going to work as team, and we are going to listen to our customers.” “Wonderful! But tell me: What were we doing before exactly?”  

“What does it mean to listen to customers?   Isn’t that the job of marketing?”   Marketing does customer surveys, sales promotion, advertising campaigns, market research, market segmentation and product branding. But, customer focus be the unique responsibility of a single department. Customer focus is too important to be left to marketing

Although the best companies have an engineering bias, they usually succeed in instilling a feel both for the customer and for the market throughout the company. At a car company, the story goes, engineers used to say, “You have to deserve one of our cars.” And in the next breath “The customer should understand our problems.” 

A story relates how taxi drivers would ask for more space for the passenger in the back seat. “There has to be space for the luggage.” “The luggage goes in the trunk (boot) sir”, replied the clever engineers. But, passengers don’t want their luggage in the trunk. It’s less convenient. It’s less safe. It costs more! 

Ten years later, the same car company could produce a new car based on an existing chassis in a mere nine months. Its advertising proclaimed “The car that the customer designed”. 

Sitting in a taxi for fifty minutes between a hotel and the airport is an ideal opportunity to listen to the needs of the taxi driver. For fifty minutes he describes needs that have still not been satisfied in the car that he drives. And for half of that time he talks about the functionality he gets with the competitor’s car. With customer satisfaction, there’s always a long way to go!


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