“We have to stop talking about what we want, and start doing what the market is telling us to do,” said a COO in a recent meeting I was leading to talk about changing the way the company serves customers.
10 years ago, the company served its customers start-to-finish, and the profits that it made enabled it to take good care of those customer if anything went wrong in the project.
Now, more customers than ever are contacting them to buy their service, but fewer want the start-to-finish service. This was creating tension within the business, as frontline employees tried to force these new customers into the old model – a model that the new customers don’t want and don’t want to pay for.
We’d started the meeting describing the new way that we’d be working with customers, but the ideas were meeting resistance as people tried to fit the new model into their old mindset.
Until, after growing frustration, the COO stopped the discussion with his emphatic reminder that the answers to strategic questions start with what the market wants.
With that clear, we then set off identifying the questions and issues that would need to be addressed to meet customers on their terms. It involves a lot of new thinking, and it is a 2-3 year project, but the team is well aware of the tensions and problems that it has trying to stay with the old model. So, we’ve targeted a few short-term changes we can make in the short-term so we can create momentum, and we’ve also highlighted some complicated issues that will take prolonged effort.
The lesson for you leaders: when you’re starting in on a strategy, or a strategic discussion, start with what your customers and your markets are telling you they need. And if you haven’t talked with your team about what that is in the past year, include that in your next strategy meeting.