Why a Focus on the Customer is Critical When Driving Change

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You’ve got customers, whether you call them Users, Partners, Clients or something much less polite, you’ve got some set of people for whom your product or service is intended.

Some of us like to think that these Customers are at the forefront of our every thought and deed during our working hours – many of us recognise that is seldom true and that even correctly identifying our Customers is something that we do all too irregularly.

This can make progress tough in normal business – it can make Change fraught with risk and potentially a non-starter unless the role of the Customer is understood addressed.

You are not your Customer

One of the biggest slip-ups when considering the Customer is mistaking your own role, as a professional, driver of change, employee, freelance advisor, or any one of a number of vested interest roles as if you are the Customer – you’re not.

The moment you were allowed behind the curtain you ceased being able to provide a non-biased Customer view, you’re now either going to be too harsh or too soft because of what your insider knowledge tells you.

If you want to understand your Customers, you have to connect with real Customers – not a proxy for them – actual Customers.

Happily, there is a profession built around Customer/User identification and testing and a burgeoning number of Associates within the S&S family who can hold your hand on this exploration and identification of who your Customers are.

Use your existing channels as a starter for tapping into your Customers

It’s 2020 and you’re still in business, congratulations! It’s very likely that part of what is helping you stay afloat is a level of connection with your Customers – be they enterprise-level businesses or single individuals. This could be via your wonderful salespeople, who are talking to your Customers day in and day out, it’s likely to include social media channels or at the very least some form of contact from your website.

These are incredibly useful sources of Customer data that you have, perhaps, been using to help drive Change already in your business – great if so – you can use them further to identify friendly and unfriendly users to recruit to talk to about the planned Change and to help shape it.

If you’re worried that you’re not flexing all the data muscles you could be, take a breath and don’t panic – having the processing power of Silicon Valley’s best companies would be lovely but would also be overkill for many – Data professionals, like those in the Associate ranks at S&S can help you prioritise your data sets and organise and identify the gold dust within.

Recognise who your Customers are – not how you’ve segmented them

Easy right? You’ve still got all those nice mood boards where you set out who exactly your Customers were going to be when you started out on this journey. You used stock images of families at leisure, young professionals in front of a laptop, metropolitan teenagers with smartphones to personify the type of Customer you foresaw using your product or service.

Once up and running, you may have segmented your Customers into cohorts and given them some nice titles, pleased with the alliteration you selected for each. You’ve religiously ensured all your actual Customers fit into these cohorts to ensure things are neat and tidy – no room for loose ends or misfits.

Does that show you know your Customers, or that you’d be really good working in a hardware store sorting screws? Your Customers are unique – with some common characteristics perhaps – but don’t be fooled into thinking that because you’ve neatly named and filed each of them suggests an understanding of their behaviours and drivers – and it is those that you’ll need to understand to be able to ensure that your Customers stay with you during Change and potentially help power it.

“Your Customer operates within a universe that extends beyond the horizons you can see”

If this gives you a panic attack – don’t worry – you’ve likely got some very nice marketing data that the board have been happy with even if they don’t understand it. You’ve also got the barebones you need to do things the right way with a bit of help from some Customer/User and Data experts.

Your Customer isn’t only your Customer

Many of us get fooled into looking at Customers, especially when looking at their journeys (more on that in a moment) and behaviours, like they are your Customer alone – and that they don’t interact with your competitors or the wealth of other products and services out there.

Your Customer operates within a universe that extends well beyond the horizons you can see and by understanding what they love to interact with (and hate to) beyond your boundaries you can aid yourselves with some aspects of the Change you are undertaking – especially in terms of interface design and usability.

The wealth of experience that external talent can bring to your company about competitors and compatible Customer experiences is of use here – not people who have dropped into to do a 6-week consultation but people who have built and managed the very experiences that you’re looking to emulate.

Understand how your Customers actually use your product and service – not how you wanted them to use it

Ever wondered why there’s that worn down path through the grass in the park when there is a perfectly serviceable, well maintained, sealed pavement only 2 meters away? That’s a “desire line,” it shows where people are choosing to wander to get to wherever it is that they desire to go despite the designed journey laid out for them.

Any journey you have designed and implemented for your Customers will have similar desire lines, that through their ingenuity, apathy, ignorance or simple wanderlust Customers have created that show how they actually use your product or service – understanding these (and the many other actual rather than designed behaviours of Customers) is critical when setting out to make any transformation – they may even inspire the Change in itself.

As you Change, so will your Customer and their behaviours

Change is constant, and as your Customers adapt to the Change you introduce to their interactions with you, your business and its products and services, the Customers themselves will Change. Understanding the impact of the Change you’ve introduced but also the ways in which the Customers have adapted to the myriad of other Changes around them is key to remaining competitive.

Engaging with experts in Change who have a rich understanding of the complex and joyous relationships we all build with our Customers will help you in this Change and the Changes to come.


We hope you enjoyed the first article in our change series ahead of the ‘Be Different, Be Change Ready’ event on Wednesday 21st October.

We will uncover the six foundations of change, the strategies required to de-risk change and successfully deliver to your business.

Sign up here: 👉  Be Different, Be Change Ready Event