Companies that would make your mom proud prove with their actions that they have their customers’ best interest in mind. This is at the heart of companies that grow most organically — earning ardent admirers who grow their business for them. They earn a bigger piece of the pie, because they improve customers’ lives.
This is a simple idea to accept, but oh-so-hard to execute. Operating at this level remains elusive until the paradoxical realization kicks in: To achieve your goals, you need to help others achieve theirs.
To take this approach to growth means opening everyone up to a new order of design and decision-making. In practical terms, this means building a ‘peace of mind’ experience for traveler customers, or crafting a welcoming experience to your services. It’s about building deliberate moments of trust based on customer needs and delivering memories earned by serving lives.
Taking this approach to customer advocacy and growth goes well beyond “whack-a-moling” problems away — to imagine the people and the emotions and the lives that you serve.
Ask yourself: what’s the foundation of your business? What drives your organization to action? At the root of Make-mom-proud companies who take this outside-in approach are the lives of the people at the end of their decisions. When these companies think about the problems they face and how to improve their products and services, they imagine the emotions of their customers, and the goals their customers want to achieve. They grow by designing products, solutions, and experiences for life’s real moments.
At Cole Haan’s innovation center, for example, they imagine your life in shoes. Designers and innovators obsess about what you do throughout your day, your week, and your year, in every kind of shoe. They layer in both the physical and emotional baggage you carry while you head from point A to point B. Where and when, for example, do women start feeling the pinch of those high heels? Scott Patt, Cole Haan’s vice president of design and innovation, summed it up like this for Fast Company: “The work we do here is driven by the belief that the work we are doing can improve people’s lives.”
This ‘imagining’ of people’s lives was how we grew the business at Lands’ End, where I found a home early in my career. We imagined the UPS driver handing a mom a package with the first pair of overalls for her child. We thought about how those overalls needed to have reinforced knees so she wouldn’t need to keep replacing them.
When we started making swimsuits for women, we began with the emotion (oh, the emotion!) of swimsuit shopping and looking at ourselves in the mirror, tugging and pulling. We asked our best customers if they would partner with us to build a better suit. And ended up flying in hundreds of women to Dodgeville to join us at the big Olympic pool in the Lands’ End activity center. There, we watched them get in and out of the pool and swim laps. Where they yanked, we changed, and where they pulled, we fixed.
We looked back on our lives as kids playing with the shipping boxes as much as the toys — and got inspired to print the head and tail of a cow, a sheep or a horse on the flaps — so kids could ride their Lands’ End box all over the house! More than thirty years later, people still tell me about those boxes. We started with the life. We yearned to deserve customer love. We started there and worked for it.
Designing experiences and products from the customers’ point-of-view is a virtuous way to grow. And it takes leadership and commitment and unity to challenge the status quo and rebuild from the outside in.
Human-centered and customer-centered design means flipping the leadership and operational mindset from designing for what you want to ‘get’ from customers to designing for what you want to give them — so they can achieve their goals. So they can see and feel value.
Designing operations, processes, products and services to improve customers’ lives requires a shift in the origin of design: moving from internal, company-driven priorities and focus, to external customer emotions, priorities and needs. As a result, experiences designed to deliver on customer priorities emerge. And success can be measured not only in business results, but customer sentiment and storytelling about how the company helped to achieve their goals. And even improve their lives.
Necessity may be the mother of invention. But mothers are an inspiration to virtuous business growth. Their no strings attached treatment reminds us of what pulls us toward people who have our best interests at heart.
Our opportunity to become this kind of company is to design for ‘no strings attached’
life improvements. It is this expansion of moving past what is required to what is desired that changes and elevates companies.
Adapted from Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers by Jeanne Bliss with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jeanne Bliss, 2018.