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Myth 2: We know what our customers want (or don't want).

Perhaps the greatest inhibitor to go beyond "Have a nice day" service platitudes is the belief within a firm that its prior history and years of experience result in perfect knowledge of what customers want and do not want. Virtually every firm at one time has felt it could skip the development of requirements via "customer visioning" and go straight to implementation of new processes and channels for customers. After all, the firm has been in that business for (insert number of decades here) and no one knows their customers better than they do.

There is, in fact, someone else who better knows what the customer wants—the customer! In order to develop an ideal, customer-defined future vision of the firm, there is no other substitute.

That does not mean that the company has no valuable information at all. Front-line, customer-facing personnel can be a valuable source of information regarding the performance of current processes, channels, and product or service offerings. Customer complaints and customer service contacts provide excellent feedback on what's not working. The important thing in those cases, however, is that the information still come directly from the customer, not from your intuition due to years of "being in the business."

However, over time it can become less clear which of your beliefs regarding customers is actual, literal customer feedback versus intuitive beliefs formed and reformed over the years. The result can be a strongly held set of beliefs, such as those of the bank contact center, that are rigidly driving the wrong actions. Even if you once knew exactly what your customers wanted, in the current environment of rapidly rising service levels, those desires are fast-changing and if you have no formal vehicles to monitor these, then you do not know them.

Finally, while front-line employees may know what customers like or dislike about current products and services, they often lack the ability to place themselves in the customer's position to envision creative new offerings and interactions that would appeal to deeply hidden or newly emerging customer value systems. By probing directly with the customers why they want things—and understanding how customers get value/benefit from the things they want—it is possible to jointly envision and develop creative, new breakthrough ideas. Which brings us to the next customer myth.

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