As hardworking business professionals, it is easy to get caught up in what we know: how hard we work, how important something is to us, the nuances we think are valuable. We see things from our own perspective. However, the market doesn’t really care how we see it. At the end of the day, if we want customers to buy our goods and services, it is what the customers think that counts.
How do they decide what to buy? Do they care how hard you worked, how important it is to you, or the subtleties you think makes your product better? Maybe, maybe not. If you are looking to be successful in the marketplace, you have to care more about what they think than about what you think, even if you know a lot more about it than they do. Put yourself in their shoes and walk around a bit. Now how do you see it?
Working with a bank in Mississippi taught me just how deep-seated internal perspective can be. For several months, I had been working with the executive team, a fairly enlightened group led by a visionary career banker. On this particular day, however, the next layer of management was involved in discussions about what could be stopped so there would be resources to start down the new path of growth. There were 25 gray suits in the room. We were talking about what practices, policies and programs were offered because it has “always been that way”—the status quo. I asked them to discuss what customers are complaining about. Could those practices change?
One banker was frustrated that customers didn’t understand why they had to charge service fees on dormant accounts, which often held little money. Eventually, the monthly fees created negative balances on accounts and that really rocked their customers’ worlds. “If only they understood our costs,” the banker said. However, that is not outside-in thinking.
In an effort to help him “wear customer shoes,” we examined fees that those in the room paid that they didn’t like and don’t understand— like baggage fees for checked luggage when flying. Wouldn’t it be great to have the good old days back where luggage flew for free? When asked to think as consumers, the bankers could readily identify what fees they didn’t like or understand. They got it, right? Point made. So the fee could be banished? Uh, no! The same banker said it just didn’t make financial sense. And around we went.
The point is that, frankly, customers just don’t care why you can’t do something. They don’t care that it is not your policy or that it is hard or that it costs money. They have been told, in the name of customer service and brand loyalty by many other companies, that they deserve to be satisfied and even have their expectations surpassed. Why would they want to listen to a long-winded explanation of banking finances?