I wanted to back up my iPhone and fired up iTunes to get started. I was greeted with a little pop up that proudly announced that the latest install had been optimized for music listening and no longer supported back up. Hmmm, that’s a decision that I would have liked to have made. Apple is now .99 a month richer as a consequence of doing my backup to the cloud.

Did anyone actually talk to a customer before implementing this new design? I wonder. Truly innovative businesses know more about what a customer wants than the customers themselves. Well that’s the theory and when you enter that heady space you are in dangerous territory. It’s true that I did not know that I needed an iPod until Apple made one available.............same with my iPhone. I was kind of old fashioned at the time and just used my phone for talking. I did not know that I needed a mobile device that handled all of my business needs and was super easy to use..........and all those apps! In hind sight, the cost of my cloud backup is fair and it’s very convenient....I guess they do know.

Most businesses do not enjoy the same trend setting chutzpah of an Apple and actually need to talk to their customers. Every good business plan is firmly rooted in an understanding of customer wants and needs and has a value proposition that resonates with the selected market segments. That’s easy to say and much harder to actually accomplish. You will likely evolve your understanding of customer needs and your value proposition many times before getting it right.

OK, so what about that SPECIAL feeling? It happens so infrequently now that it is hard to actually recall those instances when as a customer you feel special. Did the flight attendant look at you, smile and welcome you aboard? Did the bank associate look up when you entered and invite you to their window? Did the store owner welcome you into their boutique and ask how they could help? Were you forced to listen to a “customer satisfaction is job 1 loop” on the phone while you waited 25 minutes for the next associate to assist you?

The questions could go on and on. Perhaps it’s better to ask what was the last time that you were made to feel special as a customer, as a guest, as a donor? Was it the overall experience or perhaps a small unexpected thank you or an apology for something that did not go quite right. You may have to think back a ways as we have become accustomed to stone faced clerks texting their friends while they reluctantly assist you. No wonder we buy so many things on line.

As you develop your strategic plan, think expansively about the customer and their experience. What does it take for them to rate their experience “5 Stars” every time? Chat with prospective customers, watch their behavior, ask them for their views. Turn around and put yourself in their shoes and see what you think about your business.