The Customer Doesn’t Want To Change

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The Customer Doesn’t Want To Change

Be careful. First define your terms carefully; what is your definition of “customer”? If you’re talking to your front line employees, the customer to them is the individuals whom they interact with everyday. If you’re talking to your sales team, it’s the decision makers who may or may not have a clue what happens day to day with the relationship (other than the internal costs of their labor and the hard costs of your invoices). If you’re asking yourself (the business owner), the customer is that revenue line, hopefully steady and recurring that keeps your business breathing.

Customers don’t want to change.

I hear that a lot when we’re working with print organizations to transition from offline/full service/manual processes to online/self service/automated processes. Everyone jumps to the same conclusion – the individual is worried about their job. I’m not buying that as the only explanation anymore. People have so much to do; I don’t know anyone who isn’t overloaded at work (doing many jobs, juggling many responsibilities).

But there is something that never changes with humans – their desire to feel important. If you approach a transition, especially a manual to automated transition with the wrong message – the human immediately feels less important. Not good for the human, not good for the organization, and almost an immediate “emergency break engagement” to any kind of change efforts.

The statement “my customer doesn’t want that” is an opinion and usually the result of  a limited perspective. For example, when talking about moving order entry or order inquiry out of e-mail or file transfer out of FTP, the response is always the same. It works today, my customer is comfortable with those methods, I can manage it – it’s my job.

Here’s the problem. Inefficiency is a business killer and labor cannot be the answer. People working harder and harder is also a morale killer. People doing more manual tasks opens you up to a world of hurt when inevitable mistakes are made. All of that is important; but we’re missing the most critical factor to this discussion. If you’re using labor to solve process issues and utilizing tools that require multiple touches and lots of back and forth (e-mail, FTP) then guess who is also having to throw labor at it – YOUR CUSTOMER!

Now you’re at risk. Your lack of process and automation are causing unnecessary labor costs for your customers! The final chapter in this story concludes with a competitor pitching the decision makers to replace you with a more advanced/automated process.

Who needs to change first? You or the customer?


  1. Michael Jahn on February 8, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I recall reading something quite similar to this in 1996, before PDF was very popular. No one ever wants to change how they did things yesterday, but everyone wants to pay less and have what ever time it takes shortened. Oh, and they want at least the same quality.

    The issue is never “who needs to change first.” People have to trust that it will work, and the folks who prove that are software developers, engineers, vendors.

    No one asked for PayPal. But, when it showed up, early adopters tried it, there were problems, fits and starts – but eventually, folks trusted it.

    In 1995, printers asked “do I need a web site ?” – 10 years forward, everyone says “of COURSE I have a web site!”

    This year, printers are asking “Do I need an API?” – in 5 years, they all will either have one or use someone else’s.

  2. Kevin Kennedy on February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Jennifer, your blogs grab my attention every time….what exactly is your background?…..if possible, please email me with a proper way to correspond….I am working on a transition startegy with my company and we think in a similar manner……I sure hope you are smart because mine is just coming from intuition…..look forward to your response, Kevin

  3. Joe Fedor on February 13, 2012 at 5:16 am

    Hey Jen! I’m glad to see you posting again.

    This is a good spin on something you and I both run into as agents of change. It’s interesting to notice how some decision makers will take at face value their own employees aversion to change towards automation, without seeing how it affects their customer.

  4. Corey on February 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I think that people do need to take a look at automating their processes. It is something that we are currently doing right now at our company and it is getting a lot of great feed back. Its hard and takes a lot of work but is well worth it in the long run.

  5. 4pmdesign on February 23, 2012 at 6:01 am

    “The only thing that doesn’t change is Change itself”

    Adapting to our customers need is essential but at time, the customers do not have any clue about the future. We are the one who will always try to find an innovative way to keep our customers up-to-date. News papers, 10 years ago, was the primary source of news however thing has evolved. Today, news travels very fast in social medias and we as printers and designer should always ready for these changes.

  6. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    What I find interesting is that in the face of change, sometimes changing A LOT is exactly the wrong thing to do. The basic tenants of business haven’t changed, make more than you spend, invest in R&D/improving your offering, and treat your people (both customers and clients) right. You can be a source of information for your customers but more information doesn’t equal success or wisdom, just more information.


  7. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    My point was that even if your customers (the people you deal with everyday) don’t want to change the way they interact with you, be careful. A competitor can displace you by offering a more efficient interaction to the leadership. You job is to continue to respect your customers time and labor investment, in addition to yours.


  8. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Corey – exactly. Its not easy, its hard work but done right its worth it on so many levels.


  9. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Joe – I got busy (it happens). Leaders have to stay in the big picture, otherwise they aren’t leaders. The big picture helps you understand where/when to alter your course. When you’re down in the weeds, there is no perspective other than the pile of work in front of your face.


  10. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks Kevin, reached out in e-mail.

  11. Jennifer Matt on February 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Michael – agree, the transition follows a very well defined pattern so printers shouldn’t use the excuse “customers don’t want it as an excuse” like you said, we don’t know what we need until its delivered to us. Steve Jobs sure taught us that.


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