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Ask the Expert: Finding a star to guide you

September 09. 2018 11:06PM

“We need a North Star,” a client told us recently. “We need our customers to guide us.”

This is a scenario we often see, where a company has become so focused on what they can do for their customers that they’ve lost sight of what they should do. You need to verify the course of your ship, so you look to the sky only to discover the stars that have guided you are now too faint to follow.

It’s time to reconnect with the reason why your company is in business in the first place: your customers. Time to align your roadmap with their endgame, putting your North Star back into view and adjusting course accordingly.

How can you best re-engage with your customers? You’ll need a meaningful connection with them to solve this challenge, but which path should you take? There are myriad ways to engage customers, and it’s important to understand the value and shortcomings of each.

While surveys and focus groups have their relevant place, this scenario is often where they fall short. We’ve been hearing from clients in the region, both B2B and B2C, that they’ve tried these methods, yet they still find themselves searching for answers; still looking for that direction on what is going to delight and excite their customers. Collecting data does not equate with unlocking insights.

Conversations and qualitative interviews with customers may be perceived as less efficient, but they enable you to unlock three attributes of customers that analytics and other means fail to deliver on: depth, emotion and authenticity. These are all keys to revealing the elusive “why” behind what your customers want most from their experience.

The first step to reacquiring your North Star is to take your customer conversations to the next level, to walk in their shoes; there is richer content to be accessed there. You’re going to hear pros and cons about the experience your business is providing them. Don’t fear the negatives! In fact, you should be encouraged to identify them because each one is an opportunity to elevate your product or service to the next level.

The value of identifying negative moments in your customer experience is it can provide your team with clarity when establishing your priorities. You can see what they’re up against — and all that remains is taking action on the negatives, moment by moment.

Here’s the point we evangelize with our clients the most: Every negative moment in an experience is an opportunity to flip it into the positive, neutralize it or dilute its negative impact.

These negative moments can in fact become springboards to opportunities to make your product or service experience more relevant and impactful with customers; and therefore more differentiated in the marketplace.

Whether you’re a small business or large, established or just getting started, getting to know your customers on a richer level will enable you to identify what you’re up against and gain control of their experiences, one moment at a time.

Join us at Alpha Loft in Manchester on Oct. 23rd where we will discuss how to take your product or service experience from good to great through a process of experience mapping. And in the meantime reach out at or visit our blog at for more about how you can best connect with your customers.


As founder and principal at Storyline, Peter Kotsonis is a thought leader and passionate advocate for design thinking and the customer story. At Storyline, he serves well-known innovators such as 3M, Bose and Philips. He previously managed foresight, trends and people research at Philips Design in Atlanta.

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