When Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company and began manufacturing cars, he was giving customers something they didn’t even know was possible. He’s often quoted as saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” In other words, Ford knew his customers needed something faster, but he also knew they didn’t know something faster was possible!
In order to provide them with it, he had to know what they needed next. He had to anticipate their needs, listen to their pain points, and look at their struggles. When they didn’t have the words to articulate it, Ford figured it out for them. And in doing so, he provided what they needed next, even when they didn’t know they could want it!
As growth minded people who want to make an impact where you work, you’re in the unique position to do the same. Your willingness to lean in and learn your customer is key to being able to know what they need next. And knowing what they need next is key to changing with your customer over time and keeping them with you for the duration.
Remember the days when you could run to the video store and rent a VHS tape? Everyone of a certain generation knows what I’m talking about here! With a free Friday night, you’d run down to your video store, peruse the aisles to find the exact movie you wanted to watch, and take it home to pop in your VCR for an in-home viewing.
If you’re old enough to have frequented a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, then you’re also old enough to remember the stress of returning your movie on time. When Sunday night came around and that weekend rental period was about to run out, you’d have to rush back to the video store to get it in the drop-box on time. Because if you didn’t, you’d incur the dreaded late fee. And just like that, your $3.00 movie rental got more expensive, all because you couldn’t find the time to get it back to the store when they requested.
Reed Hastings knew that experience well. He was constantly bothered by late fees and realized quickly that most of his friends were as well. Rather than give up on movie rentals altogether, Hastings took the rumblings of late fee frustrations to heart and decided to give the world what they needed next: movie rentals without the dread of late fees.
Hastings felt the tension people experienced around movie rentals. He paid attention to the pain points his fellow movie-lovers expressed. And ultimately, he came up with a solution that offered them something they didn’t even know was possible. He gave them what they needed next.
As a person on the frontlines of your company, you have the best chance at doing the same for your customers. Because you’re seeing the shifts, feeling the pain points, observing the habits your customers have. And when you’re paying attention to where their needs are shifting, you’re better able to identify what they’re looking for next! You can think ahead to what they need even if they don’t know it yet.
Will you always be in the position to deliver on it? Unfortunately not. Depending on your position and the structure at your company, you may not have the power to make the changes that give the customers what they need next. And while I know that’s incredibly frustrating, what I would encourage you to do is speak up. Keep telling your boss what you see. Keep bringing up the tensions your customers are experiencing. Keep talking about the things you hear customers express. Though it may not always be the catalyst for change, it will show your boss, your coworkers, and even your customers that you’re paying attention to what matters.
It will help your company give your customers what they want next.
It will show you know your customers.
We can’t operate tomorrow like we are today because our Customers are continually changing, so we must also grow and change ahead of them.