Sunday, March 30, 2014

What does your customer want?

Some weeks back we were working on an exercise. The discussion was a very useful one. Between us, those who would design the exercise, we were discussing what the customer wants - preferences, working styles, current need and so on and so forth.

As we were discussing this, we realized that the customer wants something different from what we have currently (and that is no surprise). Our current offering was too time consuming for him and he did not have the patience for that kind of an exercise. However, we still had to offer that service for the benefit of the other members in the team - and as part of the hygiene factor of the exercise.

What did we do? We came up with an alternate way of doing the same thing - that would get us there - without the rigmarole (the customer) associated with our original textbook approach. With a bonus, it tied in neatly with what the customer wanted out of this particular exercise. We spoke about stated and unstated needs and inside in and outside in perspectives and ultimately came up with the design.

When we shared the design, it was a superhit. And we while we ended up making runtime modifications, the design itself has established a foothold for future engagements.

Very often, we face this dilemma. The customer wants something - faster, shorter, cheaper and simpler than what we have. We face this everywhere. The question is do we modify our offerings to what the customer taste is or do we stick to our guns at the risk of sounding fossilized.

The answer is simple. Unless you have the credibility (built over many years of solid service) to push the customer (most likely a business leader - so your business knowledge and domain knowledge is crucial) to see the benefits (which he can see only if you have the ability to articulate, measure and deliver) of your methodology (of which you are unquestionable rock of solidity) - the latter will happen only with the risk of sounding fossilized.  (We are not talking of compromising basic principles and values - so that confusion can rest.)

On the other hand, knowing your customer need - you build credibility by building what the customer wants - try to show benefits with the new approach and later on go back and argue how the solid methodology would have got him better benefits will get your a foot in the door the next day.

Yes, knowing what the customer needs (stated, unstated, future, current) is perhaps the biggest thing in design - leave alone training design.

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