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Courage to Start with the Customer

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the “Groupon Phenomenon”.  At the time, Groupon was booming.  Everyone was talking about it.  It’s hard to imagine that today the company seems to be barely hanging on, or at least not enjoying the same success they were in 2010.

So, what happened?  At the end of February, CEO Andrew Mason was let go from the company and offered some parting thoughts to employees, which included two things I wanted to call out specifically:

1. Have the courage to start with the customer.
 

2. The moments he regretted the most where the ones where he let a lack of data override his intuition about what is best for the customer.

Let’s start with item #1.  Have the courage to start with the customer.

Easier said than done, particularly in companies where product is king.  However, it is an important point that we as customer advocates need to consistently promote.  We need to have the courage to stand up within our organizations and make sure that customers have a voice and a vote on every agenda.  It’s ok for organizations to have a strong focus on products and operations, but there has to be a balance of customer focus as well.  Otherwise, it could be a very slippery slope.

Item #2.  Letting a lack of data override intuition about what is best for the customer.

We all fall into “prove it to me” mode, but we also need to trust our intuition.  We know our businesses, and we do know ultimately what customers want if we stay in tune to their needs.  Our decisions need to be based not only on strong data points, but ultimately also by using our gut.  Know what customers want and act upon it.  Don’t let the red tape get in the way.

I love a few things about Andrew Mason’s departure letter, including the humor.  However, what I most admire is his honesty to admit that he did fall short on being focused on the customer and was urging his company to not go down that path again.  It was an inspiring turning point to hopefully what will be a new start for Groupon.  We’ll see.

Katie Kiernan
Vice President, Consulting Services

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