“Burningness” and growing outside-in beliefs: five ways to give customers what they really want

Written by Ian Wylie Wednesday 14 February 2024
To be a “customer pioneer”, you need to listen to real customers (and act like the organisation is on fire), says Charlie Dawson
A person holding a lightbulb on fire

Buying a sofa is rarely enjoyable. You visit several showrooms before finding one you like, wait eight weeks or more for delivery, then cross your fingers that your doors and stairwells will be wide enough to squeeze it in. 

But, in recent years, upstart sofa companies such as Snug and Swyft have chosen to do something radical: actually listen to what their customers want. The result? The sofa in a box – flatpack sofas sold online with one-day delivery, tool-free assembly and no-quibble returns.

These companies are examples of what Charlie Dawson, founder of London-based consultancy The Foundation, calls “customer pioneers”: organisations that listen avidly to customers about what they want, then make things better for them. 

For example, easyJet became a pioneer when chief executive Carolyn McCall decided the experience of flying on a discount airline didn’t have to feel low cost. Or consider how committed subscription business Sky responded to millennials’ love for streaming by launching pay-as-you-go Now TV. Or take Deliveroo, which heard customers say there weren’t enough good burger restaurants in Camberwell, and so established its own kitchens in shipping containers in partnership with local restaurants to fill the gap.

But Charlie says it’s difficult for customer pioneers to sustain customer-led thinking over the long run.

“The bigger and more successful you become, the further removed you become from the customer and the more distractions there are,” he warns. “Customers are quiet; everyone else around you is much noisier”. 

Here are five ways to ensure that you are prioritising your customers, and blocking out the background noise. 

Want to learn the five steps behind becoming a “customer pioneer”?


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