Earlier this week, over the course of just four hours, I had two separate client conversations that had me scratching my head and asking: “Who are you doing this for?”

The two conversations went something like this.

Client #1: “We have all these great product enhancements coming. We’ve talked to everyone internally, and here’s what we’re going to be offering going forward.”

Me: “Did you talk to your customers? Did you ask them what they want, what they are trying to use your product to achieve?”

Client #2: “The objectives of our VOC initiative include cost cutting, process efficiencies, and differentiation.”

Me: Wow. What about improving the customer experience? And what do you mean by differentiation?

Client #2: Well, we have this, this, and this. And we do that. And this differentiation is what we’re known for.

Me: Have you validated that with your customers?

You can guess the answers for both Client #1 and Client #2.

So here’s where I ask: Who are we doing this for? and why? I’m talking about your business. If you’re not in it for the customer, what or who are you in it for?

If you think you know what your customers want and need, great. Thinking is not good enough. And it’s not just what they need. Need can be defined in a lot of different ways. Ask them these questions: “What problems are you trying to solve?” “What are you trying to accomplish?” “What job are you trying to do?”

And differentiation? It’s awesome. I’ve written before about being remarkable, standing out from the crowd, and not being a me-too. So, I’m all for it. The thing you need to ask yourself: Is what you consider to be an important point of differentiation actually what is most important to your customers? Is it what they care about? You have no idea; go ask them. Your customers will tell you if you are different, remarkable, or a standout. Then figure out how you’ll create a truly differentiated experience for them.

It’s painful to know that we actually still need to ask these questions of businesses today.

Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work, and serve the customer! -Gene Buckley