Do customers live on Mars?

I recently posted a survey on how well customers are understood in an organization. There were some very interesting replies depending on who was answering the question.

Surprise – Startups are as guilty as large organizations!

The first question was – Do you think “who our customers are” is uniformly understood at all levels in your organization?

I was expecting small organizations (startups, <35 employee) to consistently answer ‘Yes’ because of small size, ease of communication across all employees and sharp focus area. But the answers were equally split between yes and no. A startup typically begins with a solution to a specific or focused problem. Is it that frequent pivot or broadening the problem/solution space starts to create the gap in customer understanding?

who are your customers

As expected increase in organization size leads to larger variations in employee’s understanding of the customer.

What can organizations do?

I don’t think this is surprising. But what is perhaps important is what organizations can do to create a common understanding of their customers. Startups can consider a good communication strategy when they change their strategy and secondly, ensuring that new hires are on board with their understanding of the customers.

It may seem a losing cause for large organizations as they start to build pockets of different offerings based on large product portfolio, geo-locations, multiple departments and integration of acquired companies. At least within those pockets, at the department level a common understanding must be built.

The other interesting question is if having multiple perspective about customers can actually help large organizations in achieving higher customer satisfaction and larger business. And hence is a necessary evil.

On the other side…

One of my very knowledgeable friends Ramakrishnan pointed out that there is another perspective about customers. It is just not sufficient to know “who the customers are”. It is also important for organizations to understand the value that customers bring once organization starts engaging with them and change in the value during the  lifecycle of product or service.

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