What do Thomas Cook, Hudson Bay and the World Wildlife Fund have in common? They stayed in their comfort zone and watched the changing behavior of their customers with rose-tinted glasses. Meanwhile, they overlooked essential facts.
Thomas Cook hunted for takeovers but lost sight of its travellers’ needs. Hudson Bay targeted millennials, followed them closely on social media but miscalculated their actual buying behavior. Millennials love to shop, just not in a department store.
Meanwhile, WWF lost 150,000 regular donors in five years. “The younger generation will continue to donate, but they will do it differently,” says Réne Bekkers, Professor of philanthropy at VU Amsterdam*. At WWF they apparently have no idea how.
*de Volkskrant 9/9/19
If you want to know what’s going on in your customers’ lives, get out of your comfort zone. Discard all your existing beliefs, ideas and thoughts. Open up completely and show your vulnerability. Then dare to ask them:
- Who are you really?
- What is your real problem?
- How can we solve that for you?
Last year at Dialogkonferansen in Sweden, I came across an example of unswerving ‘dare to ask’. ContentKings was there giving the workshop “Happy customers? Focus on the Jobs To Be Done ”. There too was Tithima Supavanichyanont.
BMW and her Muse
In the car industry, the lead time for a new car, from drawing board to showroom, is five years. Tithima Supavanichyanont, Creative Director at BMW Group Designworks, realized that in 5 years’ time they wouldn’t be able to test car designs with today’s buyers. They would need to look at the buyers of the future. She came up with a brilliantly executed idea.
“A brand is strong by its heritage and relevant by its youth
(BMW Group Designworks)
Tithima and her design team did not work with focus groups but with “muses”. The nine muses (Greek: Μοῦσαι) were Greek goddesses of inspiration for art and science. Tithima chose young, diverse archetypes of future customers.
She asked them to envision the concept of luxury in the future. “Inspire us!” she said. And they did. The youngsters came up with elaborate mood boards and expressive creations. It didn’t stop there. Tithima organized one-on-one speed dates between BMW management and the muses.
One comment from a speed date stung. A happily bemused manager thanked the young adults for their inspiration: “In the future,” he said “you can see the new model for yourself in one of the BMW showrooms or on our website,” Then came the searing reply: “I’m not going to any showroom or website in the future. You bring it to me if you want.”
This is a perfect example of letting go of all previous knowledge and becoming vulnerable. In our own work, we’ve seen clients shred complicated plans, simply because they dared to ask what their customers really wanted. For example, we have been producing validated content for the website of the Dutch Brain Foundation.
The template for the content was completely based on the Jobs to be Done of patients and their family. The content structure answered questions based on Customer Jobs like ‘Helping myself or my family member with brain damage’, ‘Recognizing symptoms’, ‘Staying healthy and in control of my own life’. Doctors and medical experts agreed on this new approach. Instead of ‘pushing information’ the content now really answers the real questions.
Understanding is key
In our own work at ContentKings, we’ve seen clients sharing their ambitious plans with us. They dared to ask ‘is this what our customers really want?’. They really wanted to understand the Customer Jobs.
For example a large international university wanted to know the real questions of international prospective bachelor students. They wanted ContentKings to research how the university could answer the real questions with their website. These bachelor Education programmes tend to overwhelm people with everything they’ve got.
Our Task Analysis showed the main Customer Job of prospective international students was: ‘Choosing my study’. And for this job they had other questions: What is interesting about Bachelor Programme X, How does Programme X compare to Programme Y, What is the job perspective, How about the city? None of these questions needed the full curriculum of the Bachelor programme. Completely different content was needed.
The university had the courage to create a task oriented website, despite internal grumbling.
This task oriented website saved the university, time, effort and money. A reduction of calls to helpdesk with 80%.
Exit the rose-tinted glasses
What comes to mind with Thomas Cook, Hudson Bay and WWF is how vulnerable were they? Did they really dare to ask?
I continue to struggle as an entrepreneur with my own rose-tinted glasses. If I am not careful, it says on our site “World changers with a passion for the craft” whether my customers want it or not. In the end, most of us just talk about ourselves.
The three questions: who is your end customer, what is their real problem and how can you solve it for them – keep me sharp for our own customers. So now you know what’s in my head for when I come over for coffee 😉
‘Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens’