In the past month I’ve spoken about Customers Included to Amazon, the New York Times, Paylocity, a group of retail CEOs in Milan, Italy, and NASA – among other teams. (About NASA: read my story “Why the B-17s kept crashing” in Chapter 5 – UX got its start in airplanes and space capsules!)

I give credit to the teams bringing me in to learn a bit more, get a bit better, at including customers. They’re exceptional. Because here are a few patterns I commonly see elsewhere in industry, where customers are typically not included:

1. Everyone agrees that customers should be included in decisionmaking.

2. Most executives say they have every intention of including customers.

3. But when confronted with their next strategic initiative, decisionmakers commonly say that there’s no time built into the project to properly include customers.

Right now is budget season for hundreds, maybe thousands, of teams – right now – planning how they will structure their next launch, redesign, strategy, or other initiative. Those budgets will include items for things like…
• visual design
• technology
• marketing
• promotion
…and so on.

Just one thing is missing, one last puzzle piece to fully deliver a good customer experience: spending time with customers, to find out what they want.

To really include customers, you should include them even before the project starts, in the initial planning of the project. And that means including them in the budget.

So: buck the trend! Other teams are busy planning their project budget, down to the napkins at the launch party, while leaving customers out – hoping that they can “launch first, and iterate later to what customers want.”

Smart teams will do something different: include the customer in the budget now, so that you don’t get to launch date later – having ignored customers – and hear someone say, “Why didn’t we spend any time with customers before this point?”

(P.S. About my Customers Included talks… see my speaker packet on our About page.)

  1. Steve Strickland, says:

    Mark,
    This is a nice little article. It addresses again a very important topic, listening to your customers.
    It reminds me of “A Good and Generous King,” which I consider to be a classic from your archives.
    Thank you,
    Steve Strickland,

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