In a recent post, Seth Godin warns readers about the problem of "doing things by heart." He suggests, "The next time you or one of your people starts rattling off the obvious truth by heart, wonder about whether it's obvious because it's true, or true because it's obvious."
Amen to that.
Seth's example was a simple one - a fast-food meal that was delivered "the way it always comes" instead of the way Seth ordered it - sans sauce. This is a perfect example of a sleepwalking business - blithely going through the motions, idolizing the status quo, completely oblivious of the opportunity it just lost to create a happy customer (and the misstep that led to an unhappy one).
With all the tools we have for listening, reporting, and engaging; it's negligent to let your business rest on the laurels of "the way it's always been." Here are 6 simple ways to go from sleepwalking to fully sentient:
1. Listen to your customers: Would you like a crystal ball that tells you what you need to do to move your business forward? Just listen to your customers. Whether you gain insights through one-on-one interactions, social media listening, branded communities, polls, surveys, or eavesdropping; don't file those nuggets of wisdom away. Listen well and think carefully about how you can use what you've learned.
2. Listen to your unhappy customers: No one enjoys dealing with a disgruntled client, but they can be a source of great information if you truly want to know what's working and what's not. Make dealing with unhappy customers a learning experience, not just an exercise in damage control. Don't make do with putting a Band-aid on the issue, find out why it broke and fix it.
3. Be one of your customers: Go undercover. Experience the marketing presentation, your Web site, the buying process, and the customer service first hand. Do it more than once. Take notes.
4. Talk to the people in the trenches: Sometimes, positive change comes bubbling up through the ranks instead of trickling down. Why not ask the people who are closest to the action - your sales force, customer service staff, and retail partners. Talk to them about where they think you can improve.
5. Look for a new perspective: Fresh eyes on an old problem often yield interesting solutions. Whether you have a marketing strategist and customer service rep change places for the day, or hire a freelancer; bringing new blood to the team can result in exciting ideas.
6. Reward innovative thinking: Don't be afraid of exciting ideas! If someone suggests a new way of doing something, don't smack them across the knuckles with a rolled up copy of the existing rules and regulations. Listen. Consider. Maybe give the idea a try. You may be surprised where your next great idea comes from.
In the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons there is a recurring theme represented by the Robinson family motto, "Keep Moving Forward." This motto was derived from something Walt Disney himself said, "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." Growth requires forward motion and forward motion requires change. Don't be afraid of either. Don't get stuck doing things "the way they've always been done" just because it's easy or because it made sense five years (or five minutes!) ago. Wake up and evolve.
Is your business (or your client's) sleepwalking? What have you done to shake - um, I mean wake - things up?
More posts by Jamie.