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Understand Your Customer

You may have watched the CBS hit TV show “Undercover Boss.”  If you aren’t familiar with the show, each week the cameras follow around a corporate executive who goes “undercover” to participate in various jobs.  They get a first hand look at how their decisions impact the employees and their morale – and much more.

Yes, it a bit of “Hollywood,” but don’t miss the incredible lesson it can teach us.  Just yesterday I read an article in the Detroit Free Press ( that featured David Dillon, the chairman and CEO of Kroger, one of the largest grocery store chains in the world.  Dillon gets out from behind his desk and spends time in the stores, standing in lines with customers and listening to their comments.  He gets a view from his customers’ perspectives with the intention of learning how to make their experience even better.

According to the article in, Dillon tells Wall Street analysts that Kroger gets sophisticated data from Dunnhumby, a marketing company based in London.  However, the data can only tell part of the story, which is why Dillon chooses to “go undercover” to mingle with his customers and get first hand consumer experience.

Do you need to go undercover?  Of course not!  This is just one way of gathering important customer information.  Twenty plus years ago I wrote about how Anheuser-Busch executives took time to ride in the delivery trucks to see what was happening in the field.  They would talk to the owners of grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores – anywhere that sold Anheuser-Busch products.  They didn’t go undercover, but they had the right idea.  They wanted to get first hand information from their customers.  Perhaps that is why they are at the top of their industry.

This type of program shouldn’t be reserved for high-level executives.  What if you developed a program where key employees spent time mingling with their customers?  I bet they would bring back some very insightful comments that could help all employees understand the importance of what they do.

The goal is simple: Learn through the eyes of your customers.

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Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author who helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and learning products, please contact (314) 692-2200.

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