The other day I was at…wait for the surprise….the grocery store. And I needed s’mores materials for a camping trip we were about to go on. In classic me-fashion, I of course didn’t realize that I needed these until the very end of my grocery trip, and let out a big sigh because I thought, “great, now I’m going to have to go down at least two, if not three different aisles to get each of the components for s’mores.” Until right in front of me, as if it had been plopped there from above–there was an end cap (a.k.a. a display on the end of the aisle) full of nothing but s’mores materials!
It was as if the people running that grocery store had read my mind. Then I realized the thought that had gone into their decision to set up that end cap. They were probably sitting together at a big table, talking about seasonal changes that needed to be made to the grocery store layout (or maybe one of them was on a pre-camping grocery trip one day!). And they probably thought, “you know what, we’re moving into summer. People are making s’mores. Let’s put all of the s’mores stuff in one easy-to-find place in the store, and that will make people’s shopping experience more pleasant.” They anticipated the needs of their customers, and adapted to meet them.
Like a lot of business strategies, one would think that this is a no-brainer. And yet it is apparent that a lot of businesses do not take the time to do this. It requires objectivity, the ability to step outside of oneself and imagine being in the customer’s shoes. One needs to walk through the experience of one’s business from the customer’s point of view, and then try to anticipate what the customer might think, feel, or want at every stage of their time working with the business (or walking through the store in the case of retail).
At times, it may be too difficult to anticipate these things, or to think as objectively as is necessary. Maybe you’re dealing with a particular limitation, whether it be budgetary, personnel-related, or whatever it may be, which is going to prevent you from seeing things clearly. In this case, you might benefit from having an objective outsider give their feedback.
If you’re in a position to be making decisions for a business, try to ask yourself what the experience would be like from the customer’s perspective. Anticipate what their thoughts and needs might be, and act accordingly. The result will be a company that makes customers feel valued and cared for–which of course, keeps them coming back and telling their friends to do the same.