!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Seeking Out and Responding to the Customer's POV

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Seeking Out and Responding to the Customer's POV

Getting employees to recognize and respond to the customer's point of view is a never-ending mandate for companies serious about achieving strong market share and sustained profitability.

One tack I would suggest is having groups of employees — e.g., intact teams — read "Finding the Right Job for Your Product," an article in the Spring 2007 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review. The employees could then discuss how the article's analysis of sensible market segmentation applies to their own work, internal and external.

Authors Clayton M. Christensen (Harvard Business School), Scott D. Anthony (Innosight LLC), Gerald Berstell (customer case researcher), and Denise Nitterhouse (DePaul University's School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems) argue that a company should segment its market not in terms of such variables as customer demographics and product categories, but rather in terms of "the jobs that arise in customers' lives for which their products might be hired." A job in this context is "the fundamental problem the customer needs to resolve in a given situation."1 For example, as the authors suggest, car companies would do themselves a favor by producing models that fill the need of a growing number of customers for a mobile office.

As I was reading the article, I was reminded of how often a successful new product has been devised by someone who had a "job" he wanted to do, but for which he could not find any existing product to "hire." For instance, Owen Maclaren invented the umbrella-style baby stroller when he realized his daughter needed — for his granddaughter — a lightweight stroller that she could take on trips and store easily when it was not in use. (The story is recounted in brief here.)

1 The authors give due credit to Ted Levitt for introducing the idea of thinking in terms of what customers want to do with products. As early as 1960, Levitt pointed out that customers "don't want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!" See "Marketing Myopia" by Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business Review (July/August 1960; reprinted September/October 1975).


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