Know the Customer – Face to Face

Knowing the customer is a long-term process. Keeping your finger on the pulse of customer trends can ensure consistent profits. Here are some of the systems that can help build and understand lifetime relationships with the customer.

Interviews and focus groups can give a lot of information. They can help customers participate in reinventing processes and products. Management by walking around (MBWA) is the hands on way to find out what the customer feels day to day. Research and surveys give you information. But customer aspirations and fashions change. Those who are not in close touch with their customers may be too late to react to new trends. Barrack Obama became President of the United States by contacting 5 million people on the internet. He collected far more funding than powerful old timers like Mc Cain and Hillary Clinton.

Raw data needs to be interpreted in terms of customer needs. The way McDonald’s responded to change in attitude to health and concerns about obesity by providing low fat and salad meals shows a proactive attitude to change in customer need. This naturally leads to protecting profits.

The concern for environment is another issue where the auto industry has to take customer focussed decisions. During a economic down turn does a big gas guzzling car become almost vulgar? Are people ready for electric cars? Is the Rs. 1 lakh Tata Nano poised to grab world markets?

Study the needs hierarchy. Is it true that on the brink of the economic precipice people are more concerned about surviving than about impressing the neighbours? This is a whole new economics of recession.

Reflect on your findings. Study broad demographic changes where should a global major invest? In India with its largest number of young people or China with its aging population? How should Indian companies change their strategies to deal with the explosive youth power?