Nothing is quite so revealing as walking in the shoes of your customer.
Buying something from your own organisation, whether online or face-to-face, can expose both the strengths and the failings of your systems and processes.
The trick is to make the purchase naively, without the benefit of your pre-existing knowledge of the products, services or procedures.
Pretend you are a first-time user of your organisation’s products. Can you find what you want, can you ask questions, what are the options, how easy is it to get a price?
Then consider how you are treated. Assuming your staff aren’t able to identify you, do you get the service both you and your customers would expect?
Many years ago, mystery shoppers were popular with organisations trying to enhance the service offered to clients.
Mystery shoppers were hired to simulate a range of different transactions in order to provide feedback to both the senior executives and frontline staff.
Although these external services can be valuable, being a first-hand beneficiary or victim of your organisation’s service by making the purchase yourself can be a powerful signal about what needs to be rewarded or improved.
If it is not possible to make a purchase anonymously, then the next best option might be for you to spend some time on the frontline serving customers.
Here you will get an appreciation of the difficulties faced by your staff and the types of issues and challenges posed by customers.
Some senior staff avoid this option because they don’t have the necessary knowledge or skills to serve the customers efficiently.
If this is the case for you, then try simply acting as a maître d' to guide customers to the correct service provider.
Alternatively, shadow one of your team to see and hear what a real customer interaction is like.
One more small step in the next 24 hours
Make a phone call, go on your website or walk into a branch/store and buy something sold by your organisation.
If you work for a public sector agency or a not-for-profit, then enquire about one of the services you provide.
Take note of all the aspects that surprise, delight, frustrate and concern you.
It may be the most valuable and enlightening thing you do all week.