Commentary

Want Better Customer Relationships? Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

There’s no denying that satisfied customers are key to the health of any business. It’s important for business leaders to ensure that they’re not only meeting, but exceeding, customer expectations.

And one of the most important steps any company can take to better serve its client base is to get inside the head of these key stakeholders to understand their business needs and challenges.

Lights! Camera! Learning!
My company helps deliver online video content for streaming providers, broadcasters, and social media sites and for live events. To demonstrate our solutions onsite in a live environment, we created and streamed a live online broadcast program from the show floor of IBC, the annual broadcast technology conference in Amsterdam.

The project was no small undertaking, but our biggest triumph were the lessons we learned from spending a couple days in our customers’ shoes.

The Challenges You Know of Now Barely Scratch the Surface
We were already keenly aware of the complexity of producing a live streaming event.  But actually conducting the project ourselves from start to finish was an invaluable learning experience for members of our team who don’t work on this side of the business everyday.

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For example, coming face to face with technical issues like overheated equipment and near-melted cables that threatened to bring our live stream to a halt gave us a firsthand taste of the breadth of challenges our customers grapple with throughout their workflow.

Our experience reinforced the importance of setting clear expectations and defining key terms with all parties involved. For instance, we asked a partner to help us deliver a low-latency (minimal delay) stream. It turned out that our definition of low-latency was four seconds — while theirs was 16.

We also learned that the processes that seem to be the easiest for our customers may actually be the most challenging. For example, live subtitling really threw our production crew for a loop. From dealing with disparate formats to integrating rather archaic technology, subtitling was surprisingly one of the most cumbersome steps in the process. That gave our team an even deeper appreciation for our customers who pull this off without a hitch day after day.

Empathy is Critical to the Best Customer Relationships
Perhaps most importantly, we gained a level of insider perspective through this exercise that has allowed us to more closely identify with customers on an interpersonal level. Taking a walk in their shoes helped us establish greater empathy, which makes for deeper customer relationships with roots in a mutual understanding, open lines of communication and a shared language to discuss potential difficulties.

Knowledge is power, and having firsthand insight into a customer’s business execution and operations helps elevate vendors from solution providers to trusted partners.

While it may be hard to take a step back from the flurry of activity that consumes our workdays, the value of slipping on a pair of your customer’s shoes cannot be overstated. Taking the time to pause and assume the viewpoint of the customer presents hefty rewards for business leaders who decide to reap them.

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