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A Mile In Your Customer’s Shoes

Have you ever received a followup call from a doctor asking how you were feeling? I haven’t.

But what if that happened?

What if you tweaked some part of your customer’s path that allowed you stand out from similar businesses? What if it delivered unexpected delight?

Who or what could you emulate that has already nailed one of those steps? And could that become part of your brand?

It’s common for large companies, such as an airline or FedEx, to devote resources to mapping customer journeys or creating customer profiles. But what about enterprises that lack the resources or don’t know that considering a customer path is important in the first place? Or that there even is a path?

Even an independent consult has a path — a first contact, a followup, steps in a sales process, sending a proposal, starting and finishing a project, billing and following up.

I’m going to share an exercise that won’t cost you a dime and might even be fun.

But first I want to give credit to XPlane for sharing the tool. They use deceptively simple frameworks and questions to better explain complex ideas, improve processes and systems in companies and create pathways to change behaviors. XPlaners are fun and open. They stand and draw, wielding fists full of colored markers. They are creative thinkers and nudge you out of focusing on details in favor of big, broad ideas that can be honed later. I’ve been participating in their free monthly visual training sessions.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Write down on post-it notes each step in the process of your company. Every business has steps. If you can’t think of what they are, you probably lack a basic system you can repeat! Don’t overlook the obvious. Someone walking in the door of your shop, calling to schedule an appointment or reviewing  your proposal is a step.

Stick these on a wall in order.

2. For each step, consider what a person needs, hopes for or expects. For example, upon entering a business a person expects a certain ambiance. This could include the look and feel of the space, but also whether it appears they can easily find help. Think about things such as needing clear instructions, easy steps, a red carpet treatment, a DIY component, a quick exit.

3. Now, imagine a company, website or type of experience that excels at that. The key here is opening your mind, having fun, and most importantly, going beyond the obvious. In fact, the more you think outside your industry, the more likely you are to arrive at a unique way to tweak that step in your process.

Imagine I wanted to change how I deliver proposals to make them easier for clients to read, understand and approve. Who or what are good examples I might look to? What about Rick Steves as he guides people through a foreign city? What about navigating MailChimp with its step-by-step process and amiable feedback at each step? What about information graphics that use color, simple shapes and limited text to convey an idea?

The key thing to remember is that there’s no one right way to cater to a person at each step of an interaction. You want to emulate who does that step well within the framework of your brand personality and image. One dentist might want to create the the same feel you have upon entering an Apple store, while another might want to create the visual appeal of a Starbucks.

To recap:

• What are the steps?

• What are the needs or expectations at each step?

• Who or what does that well and why?

• How can you apply that to your business?

• Have fun, go beyond the obvious, stand up, draw.

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