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Edition 10 – Why Not Give Them What They Want

Have you ever asked your customers or clients what it is they want from your Family Business?

Most Family Businesses never engage with their clients on that level. They have a product or service. They roll out their product or service to the market. Then they rinse and repeat — do it all over again.

Have you ever considered the impact on your Family Business of asking your clients what they want from you?

Here’s an example of a business that did do just that. It’s not a Family Business. But the impact was incredible all the same.

In January 1990, Boeing were going great guns in the aircraft building business.

They were making great money. They were the dominant aircraft manufacturer in the world.

They had absorbed or were in the process of absorbing some of their competitors such as McDonnell Douglas.

In spite of their strength, Boeing decided not to rest on their laurels.

At their headquarters in Seattle, they gathered in the room eight of their top customers from around the world. Australia’s Qantas was one of the eight.

Boeing then proceeded to ask their customers what they wanted in the new generation of aircraft via a 23 page questionnaire. Boeing’s plans for an updated 767 had been rejected by these airlines. The company needed to solve a problem as the first generation of wide bodied aircraft were coming to the end of their product lives.

So, Boeing’s approach was why not solve a problem by asking our clients what they want?

The eight airlines in the room told Boeing they wanted a wider fuselage, flexible interiors, short and long range capability and lower operating costs than the 767. Armed with that information, the Boeing 777 was born.

Today, more than 1800 777s have been ordered and more than 1300 delivered. Today’s price — around US$300 million.

All of this from asking their customers what they wanted.

It’s a great story and it got me thinking. How many Family Businesses talk with their customers, either individually, or collectively in a Client Advisory Board scenario and ask them some questions such as?

  1. What is it that we do that you like?
  2. What is it that we do that you don’t like?
  3. What problems are you having in your business today that no one yet has a solution for?
  4. If we offered more options for our product or service, would that be of value to you?
  5. Are you looking for a generic product or service at a price? Or are you willing to pay a premium for customisation?
  6. Are we delivering our product or service at the speed you need it?
  7. What alternate methods of delivering our product or service would be of advantage to you?

Those are just scratching the surface.

This Week’s Tip

Asking questions of your customers may well change the course of history for your Family Business. Your customers would appreciate the opportunity to give you free product development advice – and help them to solve their problems in the process.