I once gave a talk called “Customer CEO” to a crowd of healthcare executives. I advised every CEO to put a special chair in their meeting room labeled “CUSTOMER” and to consult with that customer persona on every significant business decision.
My premise was this: Always think about what’s best for your customer. What’s best for them will likely be best for you too. Therefore, give your customer voice a seat at the table, literally.
Imagine every time your team was making product or marketing decisions, you asked this: What would be best for our customers?
It’s a simple and very powerful question that too often does not get asked. Sometimes it doesn’t get asked because companies don’t genuinely care. For others, it’s getting so caught up in internal concerns – detailed product specs, managing multiple workflows, social media decisions – that they lose sight of what would best serve their customers.
A simple way to keep your customer front and center is to ensure they have a permanent presence. That they are always seen and heard. That what’s best for them is a critical and explicit factor in your decision-making.
I challenge you to do this experiment for one week.
- Set up a customer chair in your office or meeting room and clearly label it “Customer.”
- When you are making business decisions, talk to your imaginary customer. Voice its response. Let it ask questions of you and your team.
- Give your imaginary customer a vote in your decisions.
- Share your results by commenting on this post.
I think you’ll notice how powerful a simple reminder of your customer can be, and how profoundly it can affect your thinking and decision-making.
I was leading a workshop recently for a client bringing a new critical care device to market. As one step in the process, we were doing wide-open brainstorming to generate a large quantity of ideas on what the value proposition might be that we would later synthesize and vet with customers. We were specifically looking for meaningful differentiation.
One savvy marketing person bravely expressed that as a former clinician, she knew that little things, as silly as it might sound, can make the difference between winning the hearts of critical care nurses and getting the sale – or not. The example she gave was butterflies. As in enabling butterflies to appear on the monitor display (out of the way of patient data of course). Then she suggested other simple ways of allowing personalization.
These “humanizing” gestures cost almost nothing to med device manufacturers, and can mean a great deal to the customer. They convey that you understand the realities of the emotional toll it takes to provide critical care day after day. And they make you in a simple and profound way a valued partner – not just a vendor of commodities – which is where you want to be.
Obviously, butterflies and other personalization aesthetics are not going to be the core value proposition for any med device. But these kinds of things can enrich your value proposition, differentiate on an emotional level, and enable a deeper more meaningful connection with your customers.
So… what’s your butterfly?
Which new idea should you invest in? What’s the right value proposition for your portfolio? How should you position your game-changing product for a winning launch?
These are significant questions that if not answered correctly, can cost you a lot of time, money, and trust. Here’s the “sandwich” approach we use to help med device and other health tech clients avoid making risky moves based on unspoken assumptions.
The Bottom Slice: Identify your high-risk assumptions. Gather your team together for a hard-hitting work session, with all egos aside. Set the expectation that you’re going to identify the key assumptions that must be validated because they’re so mission critical that if you’re wrong, you’re, well, screwed. Here’s how in detail.
The Filling in the Middle: Validate your assumptions. Do the needed research with customers to determine which of your assumptions were on target, and which need correcting. To get the most from your investment, focus on your top priority, highest-risk assumptions.
The Top Slice: Refine Your thinking. Bring your team back together. Review the assumptions you had earlier identified as high-risk and in need of validation. Consider the customer research results by noting which assumptions were right on target, which would need fine-tuning, and which were way off base. No shame, no blame. Now refine your thinking based on what your learned.
This “sandwich” approach works because 1) it gives team members much needed permission to not know everything, 2) it acknowledges that customers can provide many answers, and 3) it lets your team refine their thinking together and get on the same page.
Most important, the “sandwich” approach efficiently and effectively helps you avoid assumptions and wisely answer the tough questions that can spell the difference between success and failure.