The customer is the oxygen that keeps a business alive. No. The customer is more than just the oxygen that keeps the business alive, (my mother was recently on a life support machine with Guillian Barre Syndrome; she was getting oxygen but paralysed, unable to move. With that condition you see that life is more than just about breathing oxygen). The customer is more than just corporate oxygen, it is the reason a business lives for.
Shareholder value means nothing if the organisation doesn’t provide value to the customer. Yet I see far too many organisations who fail to grasp the importance of their customers. They prioritise their internal processes and policies to the detriment of customer satisfaction. They focus upon narrow propositions that represent organisational silos rather than meeting the broad needs of the customer. Innovation is morphed into ‘requirements’ that are performed by ‘actors’ in multiple volumes of ‘use cases’. To my mind, too many organisations are struck down by corporate Guillian Barre Syndrome. The brain knows what is going on but is powerless to act. It feels pain, it senses something is wrong but is paralysed, it cannot move. Prisoner in its own body.
If that is the diagnosis, what is the cure? There are many, but a starting point would be to place the customer at the heart of your design. Don’t start any proposition without the customer experience at the core. Create personas and walk through customer journeys. Use scenarios to develop your thinking. Broaden the scenarios to introduce what-if models. If it is an internet offering, sketch out the screens, if it is a service, sketch out the touch-points with your people, processes and technology. Don’t allow the proposition to be talked of in the abstract, work with the concrete. Would a persona accept the experience your proposing? Would she accept that pricing model? Does that journey make sense? You do not need to spend weeks and months documenting the exercise. A couple of days with the right people in the right room with white boards, post-it notes and business-speak banished from the proceedings should deliver far more fruitful insights than playing document-tennis with revision after revision after revision. You may even kill the proposition before you invest too much time on it. Or better still identify a better, customer-centric proposition waiting in the wings.