Moving from “The” to “I”

Thursday, December 4, 2014 - 09:13

In a recent keynote, I was asked an excellent question:  why do we need to actually define our own decision cycle - aren’t they really all the same and can’t we just choose a “standard” one?  Absolutely not!   That will give you guaranteed “shelf ware” (i.e.: something that will not be used).  Here’s why…

Early in my book, I talk about using the words that your customers would use to describe their decision cycle. This is sometimes difficult for customer-facing staff. Words like “selling” and “servicing” and “targeting” are all OUR words – and words that a customer would never use. 

In Chapter 3 – which is nothing but case studies – probably one of my favorite examples of a customer decision cycle is the one developed and used by TripAdvisor.

There are a few things that make this diagram special. First: you instantly get it. And by using the first person (“I”) there’s no doubt that this is the perspective of an individual. It’s also a complete loop that really feels right for the topic – travelers are never really done with traveling: either you’re planning for the next one or remembering the previous one.   

I also like the fact that each of the major activities is covered within each section. Naturally, in the implementation this goes into so much more detail that it can’t be summarized as a simple ring, but at any point, someone in the organization could always relate a job function, task or project back to this description.

What I learned from TripAdvisor is that the words we use in the decision cycle to describe our customers are very important. Now when I work with customers, I always try to pair up the word “I” with the words we selected for each decision step. It’s a quick and easy way to check whether we’re REALLY using the language of the customer.

And speaking of language:  if the main language in your organization is not English, then you must absolutely not only use your language for the word “I” but for ALL words used to describe your customer’s decision cycle.   Your language will always be more descriptive, and it will ensure that your colleagues understand and can identify with your customer's perspective.