Before a small hill next to a small river in Wisconsin lies a brand-new, purple and blue, Neo-Victorian mini-mansion. It reminds me not so much of a flower as a fungus. Nobody wants it.
The stone-and-siding Colonial homes next to it nestle into the trees. The frame farmhouses and red barns across the road endure among cornfields and pastures. There is no place in my hometown — and worse, no customer — for the spec-built monstrosity.
Its builder forgot the first law of doing business: Find out what customers and potential customers want, and then fulfill that want. That’s why we do market re-search, whether in the form of surveys or focus groups or one-on-one conversations.
Recently I participated in a two-day analysis of what it means to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction. Having a lead carpenter who’s great at customer relationship management is not enough; anyone who comes in contact with customers needs to be great at it. On-time completion with a short punchlist is not enough; we have to anticipate and deliver on customer needs at every stage of the experience.
This drive to surpass excellence might seem excessive, but here’s why not: Meeting customer expectations isn’t good enough anymore, not with all the choices consumers have. Exceeding customer expectations is the only way to thrive in the marketplace. As PR publisher Dean Horowitz says, “Improve or die.”