Home » OPINION » Columns » Thinking about what the customer really wants

Thinking about what the customer really wants


Business thinking.

You have opportunities to think every day. The big questions are: How do you do it? And, once you’ve arrived at your thought, or your idea, or your response, how do you deliver it? Or better stated, who is the message in terms of?

Everyone will tell you to “think things all the way through.” But no one is able to teach that methodology effectively, UNLESS they think: OUTCOME. And UNLESS they think: CUSTOMER.

That’s the secret. DON’T “think it through.” Think it through to the desired outcome that the customer wants.
Customers call with what you perceive is a simple problem. Not me. I have found that what most people consider a problem — I look at as a symptom.

Think of it as: applied thinking.

Here’s a real-world scenario that happens in every business, hundreds of times a day:

1. Someone calls and presents you with a complaint, a problem, a question, a service call, an order, an opportunity or even an idea.

2. You pause — and take the time to THINK! You may think to yourself, or think in writing, or think out loud, or think about the situation, or think about the resolve, or MAYBE even think about the outcome, or some combination of these scenarios. In short, you try your best — using your experience, combined with your corporate rules — to think it all the way out.

3. Now it’s time to respond — or even try to resolve. You present your reaction, your ideas, your solutions and your thoughts.

3.5 The question is: In terms of whom? Who have you thought and responded in terms of? Is it, “What we can do?” Or is it, “Here’s what we can do to get you what you really wanted.”

The object of thinking is to flesh the idea all the way out from the beginning of the opportunity, to the outcome, to the solution, all the way out to the end — IN TERMS OF WHAT THE CUSTOMER REALLY WANTS.

Here’s how to think it through to a win for everyone:
Listen to the situation.

Discover the symptom and the problem.

Communicate the action.

Reassure the customer you know what they REALLY want.

Look for an opportunity.

Create an add-on idea.

WOW! them.

Here’s a real world THINK! example: Let’s say you’re in the lawn sprinkler business. Your customer calls and says, “My sprinkler is broken. I need it fixed.” If you think: Service call, go fix the sprinkler — you’re thinking wrong. You should think: This is not a problem, this a symptom. What the customer REALLY wants is a green lawn. AHA!

To get that green lawn you have to fix their sprinkler. HERE’S THE OPPORTUNITY: Fix the sprinkler, and give them a bag of fertilizer branded with your companies name to help them achieve what they want: a green lawn. (If at all possible, capitalize your opportunity by branding your WOW!)

NOTE WELL: It’s not what’s wrong; it’s what they want. THEIR desired outcome. If you just fix the sprinkler, you get a thank you. Just fix what’s wrong, and you get nothing. If you help them get what they want, and add a WOW!, you will earn a referral and word-of-mouth advertising.

As you think things through, ask yourself: Why do they want a green lawn? Pride, show off, be the envy of the neighborhood, provide a place for the kids to play, garden. Discover these answers, document them in a customer file, and now you can get from WOW! to relationship.

Here’s another example: Ever make an airline reservation? Do the airlines know your problem? Your desired outcome? NO. They make you a reservation, and hang up. EXCEPT ONE AIRLINE. Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic. They ask you where you’re going when you LAND. People don’t want to fly, they want to land. And when they land, they gotta go someplace. Virgin arranges limousine transportation to your destination as part of their Upper Class fare. WOW!

THINK! about the 10 prime reasons customers call you. Figure out the symptom, the problem, the customer’s desired outcome, and then discover the opportunity to WOW! Then ACT!

GitBit: If you’d like a few more thoughts to ponder, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first time user, and enter the word THINK in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail

About Jeffrey Gitomer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *