Create a Customer GPS

Written By: Erica Brown

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 10.39.15 AMThere are a lot of cool features about a GPS. It provides great road intelligence. It tells me if there is an accident ahead so I can plot a detour. It tells me the location of rest stops, gas stations, or favorite restaurants. I can program a destination and a woman with a neat accent talks me there. And, if I fail to follow her instructions, she politely says, “Recalculating” and brings me back on track without scolding.

But, the GPS only works if I update it periodically. New roads are built; road conditions change. Smart organizations have a customer GPS that serves a similar purpose. The customer intelligence version of the GPS can be productive in unearthing valuable ever-changing information about customers. The security guard’s assessment of the demeanor of a departing customer can be more instructive than forty focus groups and sixty surveys; talking with a customer you lost last year can be more helpful than talking with the one you acquired last week.

Smart customer intelligence starts with the recognition that results from customer interviews, surveys and focus groups are like looking in a rear view mirror. Today’s customers change too rapidly to rely solely on where you’ve been. Instead it is important to anticipate where they are going. Customer-centric organizations look for countless ways to nurture real-time customer reconnaissance. Here are five ideas.

  1. Position all frontline personnel as customer scouts. Teach them to ask customers: “What is one thing we can do to improve our service to you” and report their learning’s. Make changes based on their input.
  2.  Establish Boards of Customers. Effective mayors know whom among their constituents they can count on to “tell it like it is.” Before implementing what could be an unpopular policy, “Boards of Customers” can often offer suggestions on timing and tone.
  3.  The town hall meeting concept is used as a way for leaders to get “up close and personal” with customers. If the town hall concept is done locally and frequently it shifts from being a staged concert to being a candid conversation.
  4.  Boards of directors are becoming more forceful in their direction to organizational leaders. In customer-centric organizations, “the customer” is on the board agenda just like quarterly earnings; some invite customers to periodically join board meeting to keep the focus on the customer as a priority.
  5.  Make it easy to listen to customers via toll-free numbers, email, chat rooms, text, and all manner of social media. Social media is a giant conversation and unless you are “in that neighborhood” you will miss valuable customer insight.

 The goal of gathering customer intelligence is not just to promote understanding; it is to inform execution. Customers do not benefit from company plans or promises. They benefit from actions taken that make getting service delightful. They gain from changes implemented that reflect their interests. They profit from execution and not from good intentions. And, it starts with creating a customer GPS to gain and distribute diverse customer intelligence. It ends with making differences your customers will value.


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker, consultant and author of service best-selling books. His newest book is The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com

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