"There is truth in the old saw that when customers ask for a
drill, what they really want is holes. Delivering the right drills
means asking what kind of holes they need." This great insight
comes from Customer Intimacy by Fred Wiersema. It's a vivid
example of the critical mission you have: Know your customers'
Two things conspire to weaken your understanding of customers'
needs: familiarity and fire fighting. If you are similar to many
roofing professionals, you have worked with your customers for a
long time. Initially, you probably put a fair amount of effort into
learning your customers' needs. Then, you settle into a routine.
You serve a customer's needs as you first learned them, assume you
understand the customer and shift to autopilot. And you know what
they say about familiarity. It may not really breed contempt in
your mind, but your customer may believe it does if you're not
updating your understanding of him with the same attention you
first gave to him.
The other conspirator is fire fighting. We're irresistibly
driven to handle the hot potato in our hands and ignore the
fundamental underpinnings of our long-term business goals,
strengths and skills. Fire fighting turns you inward. Increasing
customer intimacy turns you outward to focus on ever-evolving
customers' needs. You have to balance the tension between the two
by scheduling specifically planned activities, such as conducting
in-depth interviews with customers and using the information to
adjust your processes and educate your customers about
expectations. Also, set aside time to discuss what worked well
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