Lessons Learned Number 2 – What is a customer?
What is a service?
It's had to think like the buyer when you are the seller. Both are emotionally charged states. It's very easy for the seller to design a product that meets their needs but not the needs of the buyer. In fact, it's almost natural.
It's easy to design a product that you think meets the needs of the buyer, without actually asking them. This is very common in IT where creative and often egocentric personalities think they know what customers want, or should want, once they show it to them. Also, the dark side of this is perhaps they aren't very comfortable meeting with the customers because they don't really understand their business and don't want to appear ignorant – plus it takes a lot of time to do so – not in our IT DNA!
A customer is someone who buys goods and/or services that meet a need or fulfill a desire. The purchase price isn't always currency; it could be an investment of time or a bartering of something they buyer has. For example, free software that is poorly designed will be ignored, as it's not see as worth the investment of time to get value from it. In other words – free isn't cheap enough.
A service is an outcome that meets a customer's need or desire well enough to justify the purchase price. The value of a service is defined exclusively by the customer, determined by the degree to which it delivers against the need or desire. Because buying is an emotional rather than logical process, the entire experience delivered by the service end to end is what the customer considers to decide the value.
Amazon understands their customer's entire buying experience. While you can find things you buy on Amazon for less, most customers decide the price is acceptable because the total buying experience is near perfect. From easy login to powerful, exact search, to easily sorted alternatives, to valuable reviews, to additional recommendations, to one-click buy and ship – with free two-day delivery – it is optimized. Amazon knows their customer's time is valuable, and they want to buy the best quality for their spend. Little wonder why more product research is done on Amazon than on Google.
Understand the customer. Meet with the customer. Learn their business language, their pains and their desires. Understand how they would value a potential service and what their alternatives are other than you. Work with them to find out what they see as the total service experience end to end. You may actually be in a very unique position to deliver that end-to-end experience to them.
Create the service from the customer's perspective of value. After you understand the customer you can more ably create services they value. Add them as a member of the createive team to build the service. Work together to make it as simple and direct as possible with an 80/20 perspective – always driven by what the customer values. Defene the bare minimum requirements to meet the need and enhance later as the service evolves. This will help futher ensure the design is driven by the customer's needs rather than the developer's ego.
Recognize that this whole "IT Service Catalog" motion is foreign to IT from many perspectives. From personality, to training, to ego, to a knowledge of how hard it is to actually get things done, to the natural DNA of IT – all of it fights not just doing this correctly, but even understanding what needs to be done. Here's a tip: your company's customer-facing web designer (probably in Marketing) has this in their DNA. Team up with them. While they won't understand your world, they will see it from the exact opposite perspective that you do, which is exactly what you need.
About the Author
Don Casson is CEO and co-founder of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm leading Fortune 500 companies to dramatically transform their IT operations. Feel free to contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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