In Part I of this series, I wrote about how Calvin and Hobbes can teach us how customers feel when they’re included but not listened to and how a company can better handle and synthesize customer information. In this second and final installment of the series, I take a look at two more comics – one demonstrating how starting from scratch with customers can be useful, the other showing how, ultimately, when the two parties engage, both can find happiness.
Sometimes it takes more than just tweaking a current product or service to meet customers’ needs, and starting from scratch can be very beneficial. So give your customers a clean slate.
Many companies struggle with the notion that a customer can be creative or develop new product ideas. But, it’s in human DNA to problem-solve. You’ll be surprised how many customers are willing to (and, in many cases, are ecstatic to) jump through hoops, explore possibilities, and brainstorm ideas with you. Asking your customers to be creative doesn’t mean you’re giving away ownership of a project, it means you’re taking the initiative to co-create a project with the party that will ultimately buy or snub your efforts.
Sometimes, you may need to let go of an idea, product, or service that’s near and dear to your heart to accomplish a business objective, or meet the customer’s most important wants. This is basically the essence of Faulkner’s “kill your darlings.” But the “killing” becomes easier once customers are part of the process – when employees believe everything is possible, and when the word “no” gets scrubbed from the company vocabulary.
So many great ideas – entire companies, even – have come from breaking the mold. Just look at Uber or Airbnb. While current processes, budgets, and resources may be seen as roadblocks, if an idea is good enough and answers a large enough customer need, it’s time to bust through the roadblocks and give the idea a try. And if it doesn’t work out, embrace the failure as a learning experience, and quickly move on.
One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips has no words. It speaks for itself throughout each frame. It’s also one of the few strips where Calvin engages on an emotional level successfully with his parents. In the context of the story, Calvin wants to play with his father outside in the snow, but his father is just too damn busy. After a little bit of time his father changes his mind, goes to play with Calvin, and at the end of the night they’re both happy.
On a weekly, if not daily, basis we hear about initiatives clients are working on, and when C Space offers a solution for how the customer can help, we sometimes hear, “we’re too far along to change anything.”
It’s never too late to engage with your customer. Again, while certain things may create a roadblock, making sure the product you’re working on is what the customer needs, could be the difference between a success and a flop. Even beyond that, listening to your customer will give both parties a mutual feeling of success and happiness.
It works, I swear!
In practice, using and implementing the idea of Customer Inspired Growth (that is, engaging your customers on an ongoing basis to ensure long-term business success) has helped companies fine-tune ideas, create effective advertisements, and develop new (and successful) products, services, and apps – among many other things – for their customers. So, on your next project, start by thinking about Calvin and Hobbes – you have some very creative customers who are willing to give up their time to help you be successful. Engage them, listen to them, guide their creativity, and give them what they need. Hey, who knows? Maybe together you and your customers will create the newest version of a transmogrifier!