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Living With Customers

The Fall 2009 issue of the University of Miami, School of Business alumni magazine (Business Miami) had a short article detailing some key insights by organizations using customer feedback to drive innovation. Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean noted the close connection they have with customers. “We live with our guests. That really arms our people in a way that is unique to our business.” 

That idea resonated with me and makes me wonder what “living with our customers” might mean for those of us not blessed with the chance to literally live together on a cruise ship.

"Living with our customers" could mean:

  • Building relationships outside of the business context, such as having dinner, going golfing, or going to the Indianapolis 500 Mile race.  It’s amazing the things you can learn in a casual conversation when you are face-to-face with someone.
     
  • Having a periodic customer forum where you can get together with like-minded individuals to share current best practices, to discuss challenges, and to provide a networking opportunity (think: Walker Forum).
     
  • Touring their facilities to better understand their processes and procedures. (A personal favorite was visiting a chocolate factory!)
     
  • Meeting on a regular (e.g. quarterly) basis to discuss their overall strategic goals, progress on initiatives underway, and the state of the partnership.

But what can you do if you have a lot of customers?  One option is to use social media, such as being “friends” on Facebook. One of my clients currently has an online group with over 70,000 fans. 

  • They share alerts, tips and other relevant information with customers. They even offer a complimentary subscription to their product on the site!
     
  • Group members come from all over the world, sharing their own experiences using the products and services – pros, cons, and challenges – thus this company is able to use the group as another customer listening tool.   
     
  • The key to success will be in harnessing all of the information available and using it as input into product development and their customer strategy.

What are some of the ways you can “live with” your customers?

Kitty Radcliff
Vice President 

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