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Estrategia

The client is (almost) always right 

"Customer orientation allows us to adapt gradually to the changing environment. To cope with radical changes and/or "go on the attack", we must be able to keep ahead of our customers and take more risk. As Ferran Adrià says: "creativity first, then the client".

From the time when mass production and globalization first allowed the supply of products and services generally to exceed the demand for them, customer orientation has become a prerequisite for the survival of organizations in almost any industry. According to the EFQM model, organizational excellence entails establishing and maintaining relationships with current and potential customers so as to meet their needs and expectations.

Not to do so means willingly accepting the risk of being wrong to innovate. There is an endless list of failed inventions. And yet the temptation to focus our efforts on what we know and can control - the product and/or service - and leaving aside what is varied, unpredictable and changing - the customer and their needs - is a big mistake.

If we listen carefully to our customers, they will tell us if we fall short of the mark. If they have tried better products and services offered by the competition, then they will help us to improve our own. Customers are often the main source of incremental innovations, the most common kind, those that build upon what already exists.
But the truth of the matter is that the client is not infallible. And working with a strong customer orientation does not remove the risk of obsolescence or lack of acceptance or success. Companies like ours, who listen to their customers, analyze the market and invest in trying to develop the products and services that our customers want, nevertheless also make mistakes and fail.

It is one thing is to listen to your customers, and quite another to understand their needs. Customers speak from their own experience and knowledge. Occasionally, they may be wrong (to err is human, after all) and they do not usually guide us to solutions which may lie outside the realm of what they already know and are familiar with. Customer focus, therefore, whilst critical to incremental innovation, can be a considerable obstacle to breaking away from established ways of thinking and developing radically new ideas.

It is a risky undertaking to turn your back on a customer when developing a new value proposition, but taking that risk can lead us down new pathways to a place that is different from everything we have known so far, a place where new rules are created, and the competitive environment is shaken up. Economic history is characterized by the continuous process of renewal and "creative destruction": large, well-established companies succumb to new competitors armed with radical innovations.

Customer orientation allows us to adapt gradually to the changing environment. To cope with radical changes and/or "go on the attack", we must be able to keep ahead of our customers and take more risk. As Ferran Adrià says: "creativity first, then the client".

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