Old School vs. New School
More than 25 years ago, newly minted out of college and almost obsessively enamored by the ease and speed in which a computer allowed me to carry out tasks the typewriter and hand calculator made agonizing, I was full of energy to share the wonder of it all with those who faced the green screen with dread and fear.
In my first technology role my charge was to help business people, mostly administrative assistants, figure out how the box blinking at them on their desk could truly make their work-day better. The majority of these folks had been in the workforce for many years and had been doing fine (so they thought) without the computer.
There was no doubt, in my mind anyway, that their life was about to dramatically shift for the better. I was confident that while they didn’t seem to see the value in the computer, with a bit of encouragement they would be as delighted as I was by the clicking of the keyboard and the wonders within the machine.
The ‘90s – A Time for Transformation
But not everyone I met shared the same enthralled wonder of it all. The resistance, even to a point of anger at times, that my customers displayed when faced with learning how to use the computer was fascinating to watch. Often a client would make clear to me that things were fine the way they were (before computers), and that they had no interest in yet another computer “lesson.”
I am positive that to my seasoned colleagues I appeared as a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed youth, with little experience to understand that the old way of doing things would prevail and the technology I gushed about would peter out as a failed experiment in time. (Does this sound at all like our Gen X/Baby Boomer view of Millennials in the workforce?)
But of course computers didn’t disappear. Change was inevitable.
Just as I had to find a way to help bridge change then, we need to do the same today as we puzzle over our next move in the digital age and as we wonder how to help our business and our clients successfully through.
To cross the divide, we are going to need to see things from the customer’s point of view and adjust our approach in order to uniquely speak to their thinking and their needs.
We will need to find ways to understand what our customers want, say, and do with a fresh view. This means we will have to listen without pre-conceived notions; what we hear may challenge our business modus operandi. Some of the answers to succeed going forward will most assuredly fly in the face of “what we’ve always done.”
Great Customer Partnership
Today we are bombarded by disruption and change from every corner and digital transformation has become an urgent rally cry. Delivering value to the customer is the theme of the day. That value needs to be rooted in authentic interest and a singular focus on understanding what has merit in the customer’s eyes, not ours.
As you contemplate transforming your organization, as you search for the right product or service to steer your digital age voyage, consider these nuggets as you shape your customer-first approach:
- Take genuine interest in the customer. Listen first, and take time to hear what they are saying and why.
- Ask yourself how well do you know your customer? How can you understand him/her more deeply?
- Can you be honest about your company’s performance, from the view of the customer?
- Do you have a clear vision of the desired outcome of your transformation? Does it benefit the customer or just you?
- Are you prepared to change, based on what your customer is telling you?
- Have you articulated the transformation vision and desired outcome to your entire organization?
- Are you prepared to invest, even if this means short-term loss for long-term gain, to bring forward real benefit to your customer?
- Do you have the right people to take you where you need to go?
Ultimately in my first tech job I bridged change by listening. I understood my clients were afraid but that they also had intimate business knowledge that was critical. I took time to gain clarity on what their needs were, how they did their work every day, and where they had obstacles. Then, together we focused on where and how the computer could help solve those specific problems. We became partners in how to bring out the benefits of technology to enhance their products and services.
The needs of the digital age call for this same simple approach, listen and partner, with the customer at the core. All Hail the Customer!
About the Author:
With over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in the technology industry, Ms. Carroll is recognized as an executive who develops and articulates vision and solutions from both technical and business perspectives. She has an established history of building a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect among IT and the business. A speaker on the topics of digital transformation, cloud computing, IT utility adoption, and team culture, she has been published in CIOInsight and BizTech magazine, and was named a 2010 Computer World Premier 100 IT Leader. She is committed to sharing, listening, challenging, and shaping the discussion around transformational business success.
Currently Ms. Carroll serves as the VP, Customer Success & Lifecycle at TenFour, a NJ headquartered IT Infrastructure Utility Provider. In this role, she leverages her industry expertise to provide insight and guidance to enterprise business executives to facilitate digital transformation and business value realization. She is responsible for creating a differentiated customer experience across the breadth of TenFour’s client portfolio, focused on the customer’s business priorities and outstanding service delivery. Prior to joining TenFour, Ms. Carroll had a noteworthy tenure in a variety of senior IT Leadership positions at the United States Golf Association, most recently as the Managing Director for Information Technology where she led the infrastructure, business resilience, security, operations, and development disciplines.