Viewing the client as a source of innovation

It has always been a given that the essence of competitiveness is rooted in understanding and anticipating the needs of the clients who we intend to serve. Despite this axiom, my experience as a consultant tells me that clients are not always truly at the heart of our business plan.

By and large, the core of Basque industry is composed of companies who do not supply the end user. Instead, their focus is on generating products and processes to be later introduced into an assembly line, or a manufacturing process, which ultimately does have direct contact with the client.

What is lost in the process, though, is a larger perspective of the future in terms of the potential evolution of the various client segments. The result of this narrow perspective is that it severely limits our capacity to both innovate and anticipate potential features and qualities which clients may desire in future. Furthermore, growing specialisation in industry pushes suppliers to be continually innovating, which leads to fresh and highly personalised offers.

However, considering that companies here in the Basque Region tend to spring up around cottage industries, and that they tend to focus on a quality product or process, they unfortunately also tend to be 'navel-gazing' and 'egocentric'. What this means is that the company is overly concerned about the technical 'specs' of their product or service, and so, they generally end up being slower at adapting their offer and business model to the client’s particular traits and circumstances.

When pondering this scenario, one is reminded of Edwin Land, the co-founder of Polaroid. While reflecting upon the facts of losing dominance of the world camera market to Kodak, he stated: "I was so proud of my work which I considered to be so immutable and true that I neglected to look around. Had I done so, I would have quickly seen that the world and my work were on diverging paths."

Thus, taking a lesson from Land, who, by his own admission, had not anticipated the desires of his customers, we need to instil, develop and foster in our organisations a habit of being steadfastly sensitive to both the current and future needs of our clients. By paying attention to the growing client segmentation within industries, we will be able to better identify the groups of clients and offer them tailor-made solutions which meet their individual needs. Therefore, every member of the organisation must be encouraged to embrace this one essential point: the importance of keeping our clients at the heart of our day-to-day work.

Read the original article published in Eleconomista.es (Spanish)

Sabin Azua

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