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Holding a steady-state and maintaining business-as-usual (BAU) activities has been the focus for many organisations. Or put another way, ‘survival’. However, a lot has changed over the past 18 months, and what was important to your customers previously, may now not be. If you’re not paying close attention, your BAU activities might be completely missing the mark.

Never has it been more important to stay close to your customers. Yet the current climate and virtual world can make it tough. Below are three simple steps that you can take to stay connected to your customers during these times.

  1. WATCH – the art of customer observation.

You might be surprised by how much you can learn through the simple art of observation. Observing your customers interact with your products and services can often shed light on overlooked opportunities. Looking for obvious signs of frustration is a good first step, as frustrations are the seed capital of innovation.

Take for instance, Proctor and Gamble’s (P&G) latest innovation; Dawn Powerwash. The idea was born from the P&G team observing people doing chores and washing their dishes. Through their observations they identified people’s two biggest frustrations were soaking and scrubbing dishes. They also observed people cleaning their dishes as they went, instead of doing one big wash at the end. In comes Powerwash, allowing people to spray, wipe and rinse their dishes as they go. Launched in the US in February 2020, according to P&G, Powerwash is flying off the shelves.

Step one – get out and observe your customers. If you can’t physically observe them in situ, then observe them in the virtual world. Trawl through online conversations; blogs, social media posts, online forums, Slack channels, anywhere where your customers are. Even if the conversations don’t directly relate to your products and services, it will still give you a good feel for what’s most important to them.

  1. DO – building customer empathy by stepping into their shoes.

Stepping into the shoes of your customers and experiencing your products and services as they would; the good, the bad and the ugly, is often very enlightening. It helps build customer empathy and can identify glitches in your customer journey or experience.

Take for instance the Danish furniture start-up, Stykka, who recently designed a cardboard desk. After Denmark announced a national lock-down, the team were forced to work from home. Many of them were frustrated by their lack of home desk space. Realising that many others would also be experiencing this same challenge; they designed a desk in just 24 hours. They used only a laser cutter, cardboard, and zip ties, providing a simple, fast and affordable home office solution. With of course the typical Danish style.

Step two – make a regular habit of stepping into the shoes of your customers. This is easy to do in a virtual setting and is very effective. As you go through your customer’s journey, tune in to what’s causing you frustration, as it’s highly likely that it’s also causing your customer’s frustration too.

  1. ASK – having meaningful customer conversations.

Talking to your customers is often the best and most efficient way to gain valuable insights. Serial entrepreneur Steve Blank calls it ‘customer discovery’, and he encourages all innovators to make a habit of getting out and speaking to customers early and often. But this is not about selling your offers to customers. As Steve says, “customer discovery is a lot of listening, not a lot of talking.”

Boda Hair Salon in Melbourne, spoke with lots of their customers during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown. They heard the consistent frustation that there was no effective way of colouring their hair from home. Their customers wanted the expertise of a colourist, who could perfectly match their colour, and importantly cover up greys! So, the salon developed customised home colour kits and offered virtual appointments to take customers through each step to ensure a salon-quality result.

Step three – have meaningful conversations with your customers. Step outside of the day-to-day transactional discussions, and really listen to what’s going on in their world. Often, we’re so focussed on delivering BAU, that we can lose sight of what’s most important to our customers.

Following these three simple steps of WATCH-DO-ASK can keep you connected to your customers and ensure that you’re staying relevant in these tumultuous and changing times.