Do You Really Want Customers Co-Designing Your Business?
I’m currently engaged in the design of a new set of healthcare and wellness services for and with the people in my community. At a strategic planning meeting last week, I was caught short when one of our most committed volunteers looked around the room and said, “when and how should we be engaging with our customers?” I was taken aback. I thought we were the customers! But then I realized that, as soon as you begin to plan a strategy, develop a business plan, and design a set of services or products, you become the company. At that point, you need to re-inject the fresh perspective of the end-customers for the services you’re designing. It’s not really viable for a group of smart, committed people and subject matter experts to design and unveil something, even if you’re designing a set of services you’ll be using yourselves. That’s still the “if we build it; they will come ” model.
When Should Customers Be Engaged?
You need to constantly engage with new prospective customers to get them engaged and co-designing. And you need to do that from the get go. Not just when you’re about to unveil your pilot. The more prospective customers lend a hand, roll up their sleeves, and get involved, the larger your base of committed fans. And the more new people you engage along the way, the greater the likelihood that you’ll always be customer-centric in your design. After all, customers’ needs change, competitors’ inject new challenges, customers’ experiences with businesses in other industries raise their expectations, new regulations require you to develop customer-friendly processes.
So, it’s never too early, nor too late, to engage with thoughtful, insightful customers and prospects to gain a fresh perspective.