The Power of Walking In Your Customer's Shoes

July 11, 2023
# min read
Grant Tate

“Meet us in the parking lot,” they said. “How about 10 o’clock? ”These were among my first clients, a fellow who owned a large summer camp for kids and his friend, an investor from the Washington, DC area. They had just purchased a local golf course that needed a radical transformation. Its maintenance was terrible, and customers had been fleeing.

The fellows were waiting when I pulled up. There were eight or nine other cars scattered around in the parking lot, probably occupying about a tenth of the available places. If this clear, sunny spring day is a good example, these guys have a long way to go. I didn’t know about golf courses, had never played a round, and knew nothing about driving, putting, or choosing the right club. But my job as a consultant was to ask the right questions, help these owners set clear objectives, and lay out a plan for success, success as they defined it.

After exchanging introductions and pleasantries, Chuck, the camp owner, said, “We think the place has great potential. There’s another golf course in the county, but it caters mostly to members of the gated community. We want to serve the general public.”

“Yes, we’ve done the demographics, and there are a lot of potential clients in the five-county area,” added Marty, the investor.

“It’s good that you’ve done the demographics,” I said. “Let’s think about those people. What do they want? How do we make their experience easy and memorable? As a starting point, live a golfer’s experience by following the path of a typical customer and…imagine that person is Bob.”

“OK,” Chuck and Marty agreed.

“First, when Bob drives up, parks, and gets out of his car, what does he see? What questions would he have?”

“Does this place look inviting?” said Marty. “Yeah,” said Chuck.“We have horrible landscaping.”

“OK, we'll make a note of that.” I moved on. “From here, we can see two walkways leading to doors. One door says, ‘Snack Bar,’ and the other has no label. Where does that lead?”

“My god, that leads to the front desk and the golf shop,” Chuck said. “I never even thought of that. A new customer would not know where to go.”

“So, that’s Bob’s first stop? I asked.

“Unless he’s really hungry,” laughed Marty.

We went step by step through Bob’s whole experience, from entering the place, signing up for a round, renting a cart, and teeing off, proceeding hole by hole. We asked ourselves questions along the way and took good notes on observations and needed changes.

After walking the course, we went to the snack bar, reviewed the menu, ordered some refreshments, and discussed our notes. The whole process took about two hours.

“How do you feel about this experience?” I asked.

“Frustrated but enlightened,” said Chuck. “We’ve learned so much.”

Marty chimed in, “Yes, but from this, we can lay out our priorities and make a plan to turn this golf course into something special—something that golfers can come to love. And, you know what, this gives us a good foundation for a new advertising and promotional campaign.”

“OK. Let’s meet again next week and talk about your plan,” I suggested.

This experience showed me the power of putting customer experience at the top of a business’s transformation priorities. I’ll never forget the expressions on Chuck and Marty’s faces as they discovered new and important details of their potential customers’ experiences.

So, live your customers’ experiences. You may be surprised at what you learn.

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