Getting to know your customers

Apropos my previous posting on Wells Fargo’s customer-focused retail approach comes this discussion by web design guru Gerry McGovern – The greatest skill of the 21st Century:

Technology invariably reduces the touch points between customer and organization, thus reducing the transaction cost. Up to a point, that’s a good thing. Do you want to go to your local store, have limited choice, pay higher prices, but have a nice conversation with the check-out clerk? Or do you go to Wal-Mart?
The problem is that when you close down too many touch points, you blind yourself to what your customer needs.
. . .
In twelve years of working in 35 countries I have found an extraordinary lack of genuine customer focus among web teams. Technical and design skills abound, and content skills are on the increase. However, customer skills are rare.
I told a web team recently that they needed to develop a customer-focused culture. “Great!” was the reply. “Let’s do a survey. I wonder who we could hire to do a survey for us?”
Hello? Outsourcing the understanding of your customer is not how you develop a customer-centric culture. You can outsource coding, design and writing if you want. You cannot outsource understanding your customer. It is the most important skill of the 21st Century.
Those who have a deep understanding of customer needs and behaviour, and translate these needs into effective websites will command high wages. Why? Because that’s how you create value.
Get to know your customers. The more technological society becomes the more important is such knowledge.

The key is linking knowledge and technology. As many of us have been saying for some time – it is not a high-tech economy, it is a high-tech/high-touch economy. Information technology is only as a good as how you use it to put information to use. Gerry McGovern constantly applies that rule to website design. The same rule can and should be applied to all areas of technology/information policy.

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