Do you have to do what your customers ask?

Do you want satisfied customers? Just ask them what they want. That is the advice of many self-proclaimed customer satisfaction guru.

But have you ever crunched the numbers to find out what it would mean for the financial health of your company? Doing what your customers ask, doesn’t come cheap.

Customer feedback is not the best source of information

Is what your customers ask for that unreasonable? Of course not. Only, customers don’t need to make any considerations when they tell you what they would like, they’ll just hand you their wishlist. But you can only spend every euro once. So spend it to those things that really matter.

Especially when you consider innovative interventions, customers are rarely a reliable source of information. You can not really blame them for not being able to imagine what you ‘re up to. You may be familiar with the witticism attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked what they wanted, my clients would have had said ‘a faster horse’.” It is far from certain that Ford has really made ​​that statement, but he could have and admit: it’s a good story. Conclusion? You can perfectly satisfy a need even when the customer does not even realize that he has the need.

Choose what you want to be the best at

It pays off to think about where and how you want to excel. Find out where the concrete needs of your customer match with your strategy. That is where you’ll find the most interesting candidate spearheads of your service concept: what you do and do not offer your customers. Are the other players in the market not yet addressing that need? Then you’re truely holding a master card in your hands.

Make clear to your customers why they should choose you

How to know if you’re on the right track? When your customers can articulate your strategy. Not because you told it to them, but because of the way you interact with them. That’s why it is important that customers know what they can expect from you. So, communicate explicitly why customers should choose you. That way, you will also communicate implicitly what expectations you will not (necessarily) meet.

A little pain increases the pleasure

The latter is very important. Although some experts are still discussing this, causing (a little) pain, would improve the pleasure of those things you want to excel at.[1] That is why the new iPhone makes you happier when you stood in line all night to get it and why club members are more loyal when it takes effort to get in. A handbag is more valuable because it costs more – and not vice versa.

Don’t turn grey

But there is also a more pragmatic reason to choose not to excel everywhere: the attention and resources that you spend on those elements of your services that are less distinctive, you cannot spend on your spearheads. Thus, you reduce the contrast with others and become an ‘average joe’.

If providing a quick service is not your priority, don’t invest in becoming quick. Just make sure your speed is acceptable. If fast service is your spearhead, be the fastest and make that promise true every time – without compromise. Colruyt is the cheapest. Always. If you like strolling through a cozy shop, there are much better options.

Read more about why we just don’t ask our clients what they want

[1]Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwartz, N. (1999). Well-being: the foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Written by Horst Remes Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone