Yes, it’s always about us, which is what makes it hard to be customer-centric

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

One of the reasons it’s so hard to be customer or user centric is that most of the time that customer or user isn’t us.

And it’s always about us. We know us. We see life from our own perspective. That sounds selfish – because it kind of is. But that’s life.

Even people who claim it’s not about them, get something out of doing something for others.

It’s OK and we can accept it. No need to argue over who is more and who is less selfish. We know ourselves the best – because we are around ourselves the most – like all the time.

This is important to remember though for those of us working with customers and building digital experiences for the so-called user. For the most part we are not typical customers or users ourselves.

It’s hard to remember that, but when we do keep in mind that it’s about them and here’s why that’s good for us to make it about them, we can succeed.

Customer service, for example – the better we serve the customer the better it will be for us – since they are likely to give us more money, referrals, etc.

Downtown Tire in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I take my car comes to mind as an example. They always find the time to help with car issues. Always. Once my car had a problem at 4:45 and they squeezed me in before closing time. It’s a big differrentiator from the shops where you have to book days out.

Ultimately, though, not being selfish is good for Downtown Tire as I – and many others – keep going back and freely and happily recommend them.

Designing digital experiences is similar. There are still way too many websites that try to make visitors do things that are only good for the website’s owner:

  • Look at the flashing ad
  • Did you see it?
  • CLICK IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Answer these questions for the privilege to read our below- average content.
  • Here’s a popup: I know you just got here but please do these things for me now.

The problem with annoying techniques is that they work just enough for organizations to continue using them. See, again, it’s about me – the organization – but not me – the customer.

Let’s be selfish for our customers and end users first and it’ll end up being good for them and us.

Even when it’s about us, it can be good for others920627_10208564429888789_1609327176167593422_o

On a recent day-trip to Chicago, return flights to my home base in Cedar Rapids kept getting cancelled due to fog in Iowa. Since many flights were near capacity that day already, it was getting harder and harder for passengers from those cancelled flights to get a seat on the dwindling remaining flights.

I was just hanging out at the gate when one lady was called up by the gate agent.

“Since I don’t have enough volunteers, you will likely get bumped,” he told her.

I stepped in and asked: “How much are you offering for volunteers?”

“$500 in vouchers for future travel.”

“I volunteer.”

I wasn’t in any rush and travel extensively so a voucher is always helpful.

She looked and me and was very thankful.

“Thanks so much.”

“You bet.”

Interestingly, it wasn’t about me helping her at all – though clearly it did. It was about me getting the voucher. Some people out there might say: “Christoph, that is so selfish.” And it is. Sure. But it also would have helped her out.

Either way, that flight got cancelled after all and nobody got to leave. So it was all a moot point, but not a moot story.