HR & Management

Follow Lego's footsteps in putting the customer first

4 min read

25 January 2017

Becoming an organisation that puts the customer first, particularly when the customer hasn’t traditionally been central to the company's culture, is a major transformation which requires a deep understanding and commitment.

This is the second article in a series of three exploring how a company can put the customer first. The first involved the need for clarity and commitment, while this piece will discuss Philip Watts’ views on how insight can drive strategy.

Trust your customers

At the very heart of being customer-centric is understanding the customer and the relationship that the organisation has with them. I often refer to toy brand Lego when explaining how important it is for businesses to trust customers. A while ago, the brand found several customers to be using Lego pieces and fixing them to small machines to make their own versions of the toy.

Initially, Lego asked the customers to stop, or they would face legal action. However, a few years on and it has embraced the idea as part of its strategy as Lego Technics. But what changed? Lego’s put the customer first and changed its own perspective.

Watts explained to me that when he first started selling products, he viewed the situation as a competition; our team would win by selling the product and the customer would lose by almost submitting to use our products. However, I think it is important to realise that it is a win-win situation and you can make your business successful by creating a positive relationship with the customer.

See and commit to customer insights

During my interview with Watts, he expressed how putting the customer first and gaining insight was crucial in understanding exactly what they want from a business and thus creating that trusting relationship. Discovering critical insights into exactly what people want from a company’s products can help change the focus of marketing approach for a product. If a company embraces these changes rather than putting up barriers, a true model of putting the customer first will be established.

Understanding customers is one thing, however having the organisational structures in place to act on the findings is vital. In the case of Lego, it initially put barriers up against the customer insights it gained, only later realising it was missing a trick and that it could thrive off what the customers had highlighted. Having the ability to introduce new systems and processes meant Lego was able to implement another strategy; Lego Technics, and actually benefitted from what it initially viewed as a negative situation.

Understand what customer-centricity looks like

Watts described true customer-centricity as meeting the needs and expectations of the customer, even if it is not immediately beneficial to the company. It is a sign to the customer that the business is serious about caring for them and have a long term vision for success. He does however not believe that this means the company has to do everything the customer says and wants.

Instead, he proposes that the true meaning is “having a single-minded strategy to say we are looking to delight the customer, but we’re realising that we’re a business and we’re looking to do that in a way which, over a long period, is going to be the kind of thing the company wants to do.” While it isn’t always viable to meet every customer’s needs, it is important to consider each idea carefully through a carefully thought-out process.

Stephen Fortune is principal consultant at The Oxford Group

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