I recently submitted a question through a pre-sales form on a company’s website. I asked them to contrast their product with a competitor’s product. The response I received was too long and didn’t answer my question. It was a canned response that pretended to be a personal response. There was no customer focus. They went on and on about the features of their product and completely ignored my question. They made the relationship all about them and not about me, their potential customer. I won’t be doing business with them.

Customer Focus

When popular television personality Megyn Kelly left the Fox network for NBC, her decision was reportedly influenced by the way NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack began their conversations. He started by asking what she was seeking, instead of what NBC was offering. In other words, Lack focused the conversation on Ms. Kelly, not on NBC.

Understand Customer Needs

Similarly, we, in IT, need to focus on our customers needs more than the technical solutions we have to offer. We need to understand the business reasons behind our customers requests. We can do this by asking questions to gain a deeper understanding of our end users jobs. We can do “management by wandering around”, a phrase popularized by authors Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their book In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies.

It’s About People, Not Gadgets

As technologists, many of us enjoy playing with gadgets and we appreciate technology for its own sake. It’s not so with many of our end users. In fact, many end users are frustrated with what they see as technology’s intrusion into their lives and work. When you have a customer focus, you realize that they’re not interested in the latest tech, they’re interested in getting their job done, playing golf, spending time with their family, doing yoga, traveling, or any of the other myriad activities which are not principally about technology.

We can’t learn what our end users and other customers really want until we, like Andrew Lack, make the conversation first about the customers and their needs, wants, and desires. Only when we understand that can we provide relevant technical solutions. Our jobs, in information systems and technology, are not about technology. Our jobs are about crafting creative technical solutions to perplexing human problems in the workplace.

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