Everyone knows how important it is for business leaders and employees to understand their clients. Not only understanding their needs, but feeling real empathy. Research shows that employees who understand their clients and care about them are more creative in how they solve business tasks and are able to provide better quality services in general.
The answer is to spend more time with your clients. The leaders of IBM, Medtronic, and Microsoft often send employees on “business trips” to meet users and customers in stores, business centers, or even just outside to collect actual feedback about their products and customer experience.
But what if we take this a step further: not just talking to clients, but actually becoming one? People can find out much more when they’re physically involved in a process and not just talking about it. The idea seems interesting, but employees will never be able to fully feel like a client. They know a lot about the process from the inside, and it’s difficult to just separate themselves from their work experience.
A new business trend is to imagine, and then model an existing business situation with a different context from what’s actually happened, but mirroring its essence. Then employees try and “play the game,” live through it and understand what clients are feeling.
The Harvard Business Review explained this approach. At one point, there was an American power company dealing with the following issue: clients with low incomes had stopped paying for heat, even in the winter. To put it simply, they boycotted the company despite the fact they suffered from their decision. Consultants from IDEO talked to the clients and found out that the reason for their discontent was hidden charges. People did not like the pricing system. And the problem wasn’t just the price, but the unpredictability.
Instead of just reporting the issue to headquarters, IDEO made up a game to help executives think like their clients did.
Top managers were invited to a meeting at a hotel. At reception, they received a handful of fish-shaped cookies and were offered the choice of going up several floors on the elevator or the stairs. After a couple of minutes, they took back 3 fish from anyone who took the elevator, while those who took the stairs didn’t have to give back anything. The game kept going later as well. All of a sudden, simple things or goods needed to be bought with cookies. Without any warning in advance! By dinner, one executive had no fish left to “pay” for food, and another had no fish to sit on a chair during a meeting. By the end of the day, the executives understood how it felt to live in the payment system their company was based on when you have limited income and don’t know in advance what you have to pay for.
This experience inspired top managers to develop and launch a new online billing system with short reporting periods, transparent payments, daily SMS messages to clients and lots of other improvements.
Games that serve as metaphors can be developed not only by large consultants, but your colleagues as well, for example, psychologists or business analysts. Here are a couple tips how to:
A Process automation strategy might be one of these ideas. When work is transparent and progresses quickly, clients and the company alike save time.
The minds behind the WorkFlowSoft process management system are always gathering feedback from clients and improving the functionality of new versions. I.e. release version 28 supports adding external users (for example, your clients), who can place an order or make a request directly in WorkFlowSoft, skipping email altogether. Your clients can then see everything happening with their requests and when they should expect results, and also add comments. This speeds up your communication with clients. Use our new process option Allow start by external users (available in the Enterprise version) and contact clients directly via WorkFlowSoft, where all communication is stored in comments so you can forget about hundreds of emails clogging up your inbox.
Its main function is to streamline your business processes. You can create processes consisting of many stages/tasks, link them, add conditions, appoint assignees, and set due dates. An intuitive graphic editor lets you see and edit the entire process, and you can manage workloads for yourself and subordinates in the calendar. You can also work in the system from any mobile device via the app available for Android and iOS, or any mobile browser.