On the Job

Knowing Your Customer

I was having a conversation with a new member of a senior team who has been with her organization just a couple months now. We were talking about several initiatives designed to make the organization more efficient. Many of them were not large, expensive changes, but rather, small improvements designed to make daily work faster and easier. One of the things we were talking about was the organizational phone list. A seemingly simple enough tool designed to help you reach one of the hundreds of employee who worked there. The issue, however, was that the phone list was organized by department and title.

A phone list organized by department is great if you know you need to contact someone in accounting about your new paycheck and may not know who, but less helpful if you’ve been pointed in the direction of Catherine Wemette, but don’t know her department. It’s also incredibly challenging as you’re getting to know these several hundred new people and you can’t remember Catherine’s last name after you were told you should talk with her.

Surely the goal of the phone list was to be helpful, but the customer had been lost in the development of the product. Sure, as someone who has been with the organization for a while, a departmental phone list probably makes perfect sense. However, taking the process one step further and thinking through all the possible customers would have perhaps resulted in the same list organized three different ways – department, first name or last name – or a dynamic directory that was searchable in a number of ways.

This is just one example of the need to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes to deliver what they really need. And if we don’t know, it’s okay to ask. What could you be doing just a bit differently to provide your customers with what they need, maybe even before they know they need it?

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