Don’t just jump on the latest craze -> listen to your customers instead!

Here’s really good blog entry by Mark Hurst (Good Experience) that I read in the summer of 2010 and forgot to post. It’s a worthwhile and a good reminder of the one thing that really matters: The customer!

The missing piece – with thanks to The Onion

via Good Experience, Mai 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of coming across what is perhaps the best-written and most accurate technology article I’ve ever read. It happens to be from The Onion: New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Forget It: Let Someone Else Report On This. With the caveat that the R-rated language is a little spicy, the thrust of the article is spot-on. In short, it’s amusing to see article after article pumping up the latest, greatest “revolutionary” new online technology. Right now everything is centered on social media, but previous waves have been about Web 2.0, the long tail, APIs, crowdsourcing, wikis, disruption, content aggregation, portals, online community, dotcoms, and (reaching way back to 1996) the technology that was going to change everything, “push media.” That was a good one.

Now. Innovation is vitally important, and we can all be glad that sites have developed to make use of the buzzwords listed above. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) But there’s a certain obsessive quality in how these topics get promoted – in the press, at events, and (therefore) in conference rooms at companies worldwide. Many executives actually seem to believe that this latest thing, this one, this is the answer to their problems.

But something is missing. The obsession with the new thing obscures an essential item that most executives avoid or overlook for years – often throughout their entire career.

Example: I recently met with a VP of marketing who sat down and said, first thing, “We need to figure out how to leverage Twitter.” Meanwhile untold numbers of prospective customers were bouncing off the company’s website, confused and frustrated, never to return.

To be sure – yes, Twitter can be a help. And a “social media strategy,” to use the current hot phrase, can be a help. But there’s something missing. Simply put, most executives have never actually listened to their customer, really observed the real customer experience the company creates, warts and all, to understand what needs to improve.

To be provocative: how’s this for a social media strategy – watch your customers flail around on your site, or app, or whatever, listen to what they need, and then go and build that. Regardless of whether it fits the latest headlines.

This is the key piece I’ve advocated for over a decade, via my consulting work at Creative Good: listen to your customers. Not to take away from interest in the “latest and greatest,” but to add an essential ingredient in the decision-making process, which often goes missing.

Some companies get this. They tend to be the companies winning, succeeding, leaping forward by miles – excuse me, kilometers – even in a recession. Most other companies read the headlines and say, “Dunno what to do, certainly don’t want to listen to our customers, so let’s follow this trend.” Maybe they should read The Onion instead.

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