Understanding Customers – Why don’t we ask more questions? Taking is a step further, why don’t we concentrate more on their problems. A quick way to evaluate your efforts is look at where you are spending your own money. Are you improving your problem solving skills as an organization? (My podcast tomorrow is with Tracey Richardson who is an instructor for the Lean Problem Solving workshop in Indianapolis, hosted by the Lean Enterprise Institute)
Dr. Deming always said, “The customer is the most important link in the chain.” However, how many of us spend our resources developing that link? If you look at the Balanced Scorecard for a well-known example, you will find the successful companies that are using it are not balanced at all. The numbers I have seen usually depict internal processes weighing in around 35%. The other three areas: Financial, Customer and Innovation (Learning) are all relatively even at a little more than 20%. I think these numbers with or without an implemented Balance Scorecard would not differ all that much. I would also venture to say that the Innovation (Learning) phase take a hit in recessionary times.
If you think for second, with the rapid increase in internet sales for commodity products the ability to diagnose a customer problem is one of the major advantages left for off-line sales. In a recent podcast, I discussed with Joan Friedlander, the ability for introverts to be good salespeople in today’s climate. There is a lesson to be learned. Joan commented on these advantages:
The reason that I say that is if you think of the business climate today, there’s a bit of mistrust out there. And there’s also an incredibly high volume of marketing noise that we all have to contend with. So, I think that the introvert’s preference for more meaningful connections and private conversations can actually be to their advantage and one that can be employed for positive results.
So I’m going to make some generalizations, but I think these are things that everybody can think about in terms of their own preferences; what they are, and what they are not. Introverts, I don’t think, are all that manipulative. The advantage is, a lot of introverts are very good listeners. The reason their good listeners, is because they prefer to ask questions and listen to people than be in the spotlight.
Don’t run off and start hiring a bunch of introverts. However, do investigate how your staff is being trained. One of the things that I do to improve my skills is to participate in my customers’ training. Many times by attending the workshop on their products or developing skills that they are seeking can add some great benefits. Sometimes just learning to talk their talk helps you walk your walk!
P.S. I will be attending the LEI Workshops, will you?