Forgive me for I have a confession to make.
As a manager, I spent a lot of my time stuck behind a desk or trapped in a succession of meetings talking about customer facing teams and end consumers.
As a consultant, I now spend my time actually on the front line actively listening to customers and understanding the challenges of the staff that engage with them.
You only gain true insight by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and looking at your organisation (or your client’s organisation) from the outside in.
They used to say of market research that:
a day in the field is worth a hundred at the desk
And what is true of marketing also applies to sales, operations, customer service or any other aspect of your business.
Senior managers have incredibly demanding roles and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Which may be why so many of us spend so little time interacting with the customers that buy our company’s products and services.
Shielded from regular direct customer contact, we are at risk of not fully understanding what our customers really want and consequently missing out on ways to respond better to their rapidly changing needs.
Contrast this with the successful business leaders who go out of their way to engage with their staff and customers.
Take Justin King for example. His turnaround plan – called Making Sainsbury’s Great Again – gained traction because he spent time on the shop floor communicating face to face with Sainsbury’s workers and the customers that they serve.
Or the legendary Richard Branson who is regularly seen at the sharp end of his many business ventures and is reputed never to say no to his staff’s ideas and initiatives.
OK, so we may not be at the top of the organisation and therefore have less room to escape the hidebound rules of corporate bureaucracy, but we can all consciously make that decision every once in a while to leave the comfort of the manager’s office and walk in the customers’ shoes.
I guarantee it will be the best time investment you can make this summer.
What is your story?
What did you learn by spending time alongside your frontline staff or face to face with your customers?
I’d love to hear from you.