Successful organizations stay close to their customers and adapt to meet users’ changing needs. Start-ups have to do it just to survive the next week. Established companies are able to take a longer view, but given the pace of change, they are susceptible to blind spots that hide disruptors. At Mod Op Strategic Consulting we frequently write about the need to be agile in approach and to “think like a start-up.” Even if you are part of an organization that has been providing services for a century, you can become more nimble. Just take a selfie.
Let me explain.
When you’re leading an established company, you are likely to be out in the market and meeting your customers frequently. What can you do to reduce the distance between your customer and everyone on your team? One simple tool I’ve used that has become markedly easier in recent years (thanks to improved technology and changing social norms) is capturing your customer relationships through pictures
The next time you visit a client, ask permission to take a few pictures of their workplace environment. I’ve found a snapshot of the lobby is always illustrative. If your clients are knowledge workers, take a picture of the general office area. Even if you are in a conference room your team can learn something from the image.
Pictures make the customer “real” to your teams who are not in the field
Visiting clients is an important part of understanding how your products are being used, and the people who use them. Unfortunately, not everyone in a company or organization gets to meet with customers on a regular basis, if at all. Capturing and sharing a customer’s work environment, and images of the people you are working so hard to serve, brings your customers “home”. And, it’s much easier to accomplish today with portable smartphones at just about everyone’s fingertips. Before the smartphone, carrying a heavy camera in your bag and pulling it out to stage a photo was often a more awkward and disruptive process.
If you are reading this post, it’s likely that you have a phone with a camera somewhere within reach at this moment. (In fact, you may well be reading this on your phone.) During your next meeting with a client, take a few photos when you come in. . Make sure you get your customer’s permission, most will be flattered and respond favorably to your interest in taking a a few “snaps”.
To be more deliberate in your photography, ask your client to join you in a selfie. The selfie is a handy tool and you don’t really need to be all the way in the shot. What you really want to capture is the office setting.
Once you’ve got a few pictures, share them with your team. You can post them on your internal Slack channel (or, again if you have the client’s permission, your organization’s Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat account) or even just email it to your full team. I’ve found it to be most effective when I send the picture before I even leave the site. You’re not doing a photo shoot for the cover of a magazine so blurry pictures are fine or oddly cropped photos still give your team a sense of the customer.
Every picture tells a story
To bring the customer into the room of your organization, print up a few pictures and post them in your conference room or in some common area of the office. If you’ve done any work to identify your customers’ various personas, add the pictures to the persona profile for this client.
Your colleagues are likely to surprise you with what they notice in your picture. Ask them about it. Even if the picture you took does not include the actual space where your customers use your product or service, you will get a better sense of how they operate. (Or, in the case of a public-facing conference room, how they want to be perceived.) Imagery can be valuable information for your team to use as they consider how to respond to customer needs and use-cases, and in the ongoing iterative product development process.. Understanding customers through photography makes your organization better able to adapt, engage, and integrate with diverse customer cultures and personalities. When familiarity increases, conversations can be more comfortable and productive, while challenges are easier to solve.
Capturing customer relationships through images is simple, cheap and easy to do. And customers are usually flattered and happy to let you snap away, as people over the past 10 years have gotten more used to sharing images on social media. Moreover, the practice may open up your thinking about how best to adapt the latest trends in imaging and social media to grow your business: Your phone’s camera doesn’t have to be just for cats, food, babies and memes.
You’ll find that, by putting your clients in the picture, your team will be better able to focus on their needs.