On Strategy: Start with the Customer Experience


Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

~ Walt Disney

If we don’t take care of our customers someone else will.

~ Unknown

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.

~ Steve Jobs

I have the privilege of working with an amazing executive team at Alytis.  We recently completed a two day executive offsite retreat where we focused on the long-term strategy of the company.  The President of Alytis, Bruce Jensen, began the offsite by sharing a video of Steve Jobs in 1997 answering a difficult question from an attendee of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.  There is limited context to the question in the video but, from what I can interpret, he was disgruntled at Apple’s decision to discontinue development of OpenDoc in March 1997 soon after Mr. Job’s return to Apple as CEO. (See more history on OpenDoc here. )

The response from Mr. Jobs to the inquiry is highly instructive on strategy.  You can see the seeds of the overall Apple strategy that is still bearing fruit today.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Job’s response:

“One of the things I’ve always found is that you got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.  You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it.  I’ve made this mistake more than anyone else in this room and I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it.  I know it is the case.  And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple it started with, ‘what incredible benefits can we give to the customer?’  ‘Where can we take the customer?’  Not starting with, ‘let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and how we are going to market that.'”

Mr. Jobs then goes on to explain different specific examples of how he learned this lesson and gained the scar tissue. If you want to see the full video, check it out here.

Mr. Jensen showed the Alytis executives this video to emphasize the need for Alytis to remain focused on always starting with the customer experience and working backward to the technology.  There is a lot of talent developing amazing technology at Alytis.  Everyone is excited about our purpose and potential.  However, Mr. Jensen wanted to make sure we never forget that ultimately our purpose is to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I couldn’t agree more.  I discussed the concept of Customer Centricity in an earlier blog post.  Check it out here if you want additional reading or keyword search my blog using “customer centric.”

Do you begin your strategy with the customer experience in mind?  Do you understand and know who your customer is?  Every person is serving some sort of customer, whether internal or external.  I encourage you to consider what their experience is with you or your product.  Can you improve it?  If so, make it happen and you will begin to see great results.

Choose customer-centricity.  Choose greatness.


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