The art of lis­ten­ing

The Smart Manager - - Editorial -

Why do busi­nesses ex­ist? Ar­gu­ments abound in fa­vor of one or many of th­ese—cus­tomers, em­ploy­ees, wealth cre­ation, and so­ci­ety. While there has been no con­sen­sus, most man­age­ment gu­rus and lead­ers agree that cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is key to suc­cess. But how many com­pa­nies can ac­tu­ally claim to have achieved 100% cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion?

Sheena Iyen­gar, one of the world’s fore­most ex­perts on choice, says, “We’re born with the de­sire, but we don’t re­ally know how to choose1.” So if cus­tomers are un­sure about their choices, how will or­ga­ni­za­tions un­der­stand and de­liver what they need? If so, how will they in­no­vate to sat­isfy them? This is what this is­sue’s cover story tries to un­ravel.

We spoke to three com­pa­nies—Cookie Man, Hidesign, and Le­grand—and tried to un­der­stand how they re­spond to cus­tomer needs. We gath­ered pow­er­ful in­sights—there has to be a fine bal­ance be­tween in­no­vat­ing and un­der­stand­ing the needs of cus­tomers. And one of the yard­sticks of a suc­cess­ful in­no­va­tion is simplicity.

We also un­der­stood that dif­fer­ent prod­ucts need dif­fer­ent lev­els of cus­tomer feed­back and in­volve­ment. Hidesign’s Dilip Ka­pur high­lights this when he says they are less linked to cus­tomer de­vel­op­ment com­pared to most com­pa­nies. Yet their prod­ucts are suc­cess­ful and popular.

Else­where in the is­sue, Vinita Bali de­fines in­no­va­tion and urges com­pa­nies to not only in­no­vate, but also fo­cus on ren­o­va­tion that could add new value at a sig­nif­i­cantly lower cost. And in our Gu­ru­mantra col­umn, Mor­gen Witzel gives us a master class on how to drive in­no­va­tion.

Given th­ese nu­ances and vari­ables, what should man­agers do to at­tract and re­tain cus­tomers? In her in­ter­view to The Smart Man­ager, Iyen­gar an­swers this ques­tion. She says man­agers need to ask, ‘How do I make the choos­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for my cus­tomer more mean­ing­ful?’ The key here is ‘mean­ing­ful’. Un­less the in­no­va­tion process is rooted in cus­tomer in­sight and adds value to the end user, it will fail.

We would also like to lis­ten to our read­ers. Do write in with your thoughts and views on the mag­a­zine to poorn­ima@thes­mart­man­

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