The other day a friend asked me: "What department in a company is generally best at providing relevance to the customer?". It prompted an interesting discussion about the importance of getting to know your customers. Here's a quick summary of that discussion.
My immediate reaction was: to ask if he was thinking about the company as a whole or a specific part? He said he was thinking about the entire company and the entire customer experience.
My answer was that I am sure that most companies think along the lines of:
Sales know most about how it is to be a paying customer.
Customer service and service know most about how it is to be a user.
Marketing and communications know-how to keep prospects and customers aware of the company's existence and offerings.
R&D know what the customer wants and needs.
However, from my experience, I would claim that very few people within most companies know how it is to be a customer, user and what they genuinely want and need.
So the short answer to my friend's question is that no department is particularly good at providing relevance to the customers since they don't generally grasp how to be a customer.
At the same time, I know that most companies have survived and done well without knowing.
The dilemma is that in a digital and online world, companies are increasingly competing based on customer experience rather than on their product and service offering.
Given that, what would happen if the urge to know how it is to be a paying customer and a user was what drove most companies?
Alternatively, and perhaps more relevant, what will happen with companies that continue to ignore getting to know and understand their customers?