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How to Get Closer to Customers

by Cristian Mitreanu  |  
February 21, 2006

The road to business success is rough. The business literature is crammed with descriptions of processes that would challenge the top executives while leading their companies to success. Commoditization, innovation, globalization, disruption, and others—we've heard it all. Simultaneously opportunities and threats, these processes can blur the leaders' visibility, making it hard to set and/or manage the right direction for their companies.

So what is to be done? How can leaders and their organizations see clearer through this foggy business environment? How can leaders find a solid ground amid this informational storm? The answer is relatively simple: deeper customer insight.

Achieve higher knowledge

The first step in getting closer to the customer is to go beyond his needs and understand the mechanics of his problem-solving behavior.

Although its necessity has become more obvious in recent years, the quest for a higher degree of customer knowledge is not new. The past decade, for instance, has been characterized by advances materialized in concepts like "customer experience" and "customer status." Both concepts identify that in addition to the obvious customer's need, which can be addressed with a particular product or service, there are other complementary needs, which are also of high importance to the customer.

The sum of these needs form a system or cluster of needs, which is usually referred to as "customer experience" or "customer status." For ease of understanding, just think about the experience of buying a pair of jeans and that, in many cases, additional needs like accessible parking and friendly personnel seriously influence the entire shopping experience.

Unfortunately, despite these valuable breakthroughs in the understanding of the customer, its value beyond the sales and marketing departments was never really clear. But, recently, we have managed to move forward and cross these boundaries by identifying the mechanics of the customer's problem-solving behavior, which revealed a direct relationship between that behavior and the foundation for a healthy vendor strategy.

We discovered that the customer's life is characterized by a continuous quest to address issues. Each customer, based on his knowledge at a particular time, possesses a hierarchy of issues.

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Cristian Mitreanu is the founder and lead researcher of ( Contact him by email at

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