Asking the customer to change is the wrong question, almost everyone defends the status quo. Looking for ways to make your interactions with the customer more efficient (for the customer) is always a good idea. If you’re not thinking that way, I’m sure your competitors are!
Be careful. First define your terms carefully; what is your definition of “customer”? If you’re talking to your front line employees, the customer to them is the individuals whom they interact with everyday. If you’re talking to your sales team, it’s the decision makers who may or may not have a clue what happens day to day with the relationship (other than the internal costs of their labor and the hard costs of your invoices). If you’re asking yourself (the business owner), the customer is that revenue line, hopefully steady and recurring that keeps your business breathing.
Customers don’t want to change.
I hear that a lot when we’re working with print organizations to transition from offline/full service/manual processes to online/self service/automated processes. Everyone jumps to the same conclusion – the individual is worried about their job. I’m not buying that as the only explanation anymore. People have so much to do; I don’t know anyone who isn’t overloaded at work (doing many jobs, juggling many responsibilities).
But there is something that never changes with humans – their desire to feel important. If you approach a transition, especially a manual to automated transition with the wrong message – the human immediately feels less important. Not good for the human, not good for the organization, and almost an immediate “emergency break engagement” to any kind of change efforts.
The statement “my customer doesn’t want that” is an opinion and usually the result of a limited perspective. For example, when talking about moving order entry or order inquiry out of e-mail or file transfer out of FTP, the response is always the same. It works today, my customer is comfortable with those methods, I can manage it – it’s my job.
Here’s the problem. Inefficiency is a business killer and labor cannot be the answer. People working harder and harder is also a morale killer. People doing more manual tasks opens you up to a world of hurt when inevitable mistakes are made. All of that is important; but we’re missing the most critical factor to this discussion. If you’re using labor to solve process issues and utilizing tools that require multiple touches and lots of back and forth (e-mail, FTP) then guess who is also having to throw labor at it – YOUR CUSTOMER!
Now you’re at risk. Your lack of process and automation are causing unnecessary labor costs for your customers! The final chapter in this story concludes with a competitor pitching the decision makers to replace you with a more advanced/automated process.
Who needs to change first? You or the customer?