Everything you do isn’t going to bring joy to the customer, some things just have to get done.

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Racheal Reeves
Racheal Reeves
Chief Creative and Behavioural Strategist
February 13, 2020

When is the right time to be customer-centric and when should you just focus on getting shit done?

Let’s unpack this like a game of charades.

Being customer-centric is much like a game of charades… its best broken into bite-sized chunks.

“Everything you do isn’t going to bring joy to the customer, some things just have to get done.”

Everything can extend into space, into the unknown, it can mean absolutely anything. Let’s apply some constraints to help us avoid an existential crisis on a Wednesday.

Everything can mean:

  • the project you are working on
  • the product you are working on
  • your agenda for the day

When we break down daily tasks into their essence they generally fall into two buckets — work for the business or work in the business.

This is why being customer-centric can be incredibly hard for people in complex organisations. When we look at the root cause of our confusion we find its foundations sit in the understanding of what is for the business yet we normally focus on what is in the business by focusing on serving our stakeholders, colleagues and higher-ups instead of our customers because our boss pays us and holds the strings to our next promotion.

But not all is lost. Every day you can tread the fine line between ensuring you get paid and serving your customers (even if they are far away and you never see them).

The first thing to do is a stock take of yourself. Do a quick mini audit of where you currently are. And to audit yourself frequently. The easiest way to do this is to take a snapshot of your day and start identifying why that’s on your agenda and who for.

My agenda for the day (snapshot):

  • Interview with a potential new marketing manager
  • Stand Up for one of the projects I am on
  • Organising my Chrome extensions and syncing accounts across projects
  • Writing this article
  • Department Fortnightly meeting
  • Lunch with a friend…

When you purge your agenda onto a piece of paper you can start to ask yourself the tough questions, “why am I doing this.” You will most likely start with some pretty wishy-washy answers that sound great in your head but do they hold up on paper? That is the real test.

I am not one to torture without torturing myself first (its called user testing right?!) so let’s have a go at my attempt to be ‘customer-centric’ in everything I do.

Agenda Item 1: Interview with a potential new marketing manager

Now this one is easy, it’s a clear cut customer-focused activity. I need a marketing manager to generate marketing to reach our most vulnerable audiences and to drive engagement.

Agenda Item 2: Stand Up for one of the projects I am on

Eeek, this one is getting in the grey area. In theory, it’s customer-focused because I am the UX Researcher on this project but the focus is on building a business case. Therefore my user research is actually to achieve the outcome of a strong business case not to develop a product for the customer. In conclusion, this is ‘working in the business.’

Agenda Item 3: Organising and syncing my accounts

This is clearly not customer-focused. I’m not even sure if I can give you a good rationale. This is ‘hygiene’ which is needed to make sure your road is clear to complete customer-centric tasks. Keep a track of these — if you find yourself with more hygiene tasks than work ask yourself why and how can you realign your efforts.

But is working in the business really that bad?

Many times we need to dip and dive in and out of ‘working for’ and ‘working in’ the business and that’s okay. If we didn’t do this how could we show our bosses how great we are and deserve those extra gold coins?

The important thing to identify is when you are working ‘in’ the business and to understand how that will result in being customer-centric.

For instance, the second item on my agenda may be focused in the business today but the business case will lead to funding to develop a new product that will ultimately bring our customers joy (or just less pain). It’s in knowing why you are doing something that means you can navigate your time and energies and start to change the focus for yourself and those around you to be pragmatic customer-focused promoters in your company.

It also means when it comes round to your monthly/quarterly/yearly performance review you can clearly demonstrate the value you have brought — which is always a win for that shiny promotion.

Beginning the journey to becoming customer-centric is big and scary. So start small, start with yourself. If you can articulate and rationalise how tasks = customer joy (or less pain!) then those around you will learn the skill too and being customer-centric will become easier and easier for yourself and those you work with.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

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February 13, 2020
February 13, 2020

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