This week I was struck by something Jed Williams said in the February edition of Editor and Publisher magazine.
Williams is the chief innovation officer at the Local Media Association, which counts Wick Communications newspapers among its members. For the magazine’s Wise Advice column, he was asked a single question: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?”
“Be customer obsessed, not competitor obsessed.”
He goes on to say that “obsessed” is not “focused.” It’s … obsessed. It is the reason you come in to work in the morning. He says you have to actually solve problems for customers, be they readers who need timely information or advertisers who need to move the needle on their businesses.
Williams says the key is empathy, which is something I’ve said again and again even as I understand it’s easier said than achieved. Believe me: I’ve failed repeatedly in various quests to empathize with our customers. I’ve failed to follow through with some design-thinking ideas. I’ve failed the obsessions test in dealing with Half Moon Bay Review customers who walk through the door with a problem. If you’ve ever walked past someone at the front counter who wanted to buy a newspaper or talk to an ad rep or ask how to get an event covered, you too have failed to be obsessed enough with our customers. Welcome to the club.
Ultimately, our success or failure will be found in relation to our ability to solve customer problems and that requires empathizing with their individual problems. …
“By developing continuous feedback loops with our customers, and showing real empathy, we can unlock more value than by chasing shiny objects simply because others are,” Williams said in closing.
The good news is that every day is a new one. I promise to be a little more focused on the good people who buy our product. How about you?