I will start with a story from my experience working at a customer’s office. In my second visit to US in 2006 I worked with a client manager of a retailer. One day we had a lunch at the cafeteria and I asked him what is that you are proud of your country. He answered that

Even to do a small task the US invents a tool or the machine thereby making the worker productive

He asked me the same question and I replied

We invent new uses for various tools, machines, and materials.

I gave him an example of how I used iPod in 2007 as Iron Box because the backside of the iPod gets heated when charging. He was amused with my use of iPod.

While this incident did not haunt me for almost 10 years I used to recall this sometimes. One day when I was talking to an internal user of the company that I was working for and I felt that I have not developed the right tool for them to use. Even though the requirement provided was fulfilled but somehow the user was not satisfied with the tool. In another incident, we evaluated a  product for another client and implemented it. The client was happy with the tool and they approved it and then we implemented it for their operations. After a few months of implementation, the customer felt the tool was missing something or that we did not evaluate that correctly.

I thought about that for a few days and started digging the reasons for customer’s dissatisfaction and eventually switched to discover the mistakes I made on the journey. I realized my mistake and that was really an enlightening moment for me.

I used to think in terms of function and the customer used to think in terms of purpose.

Now you can recall the discussion at the beginning of the post. I used iPod not just for listening to the songs but for some other purposes too. From then on whenever I talked to any client I used to ask them questions in terms of purpose instead of what functionality they need. This helped me develop products as per the client’s purpose or evaluate products as per the client’s purpose.

The second story is also an interesting story. One of the managers I worked with is not from a technical background but he was a very good manager. There were two issues that we both had while interacting with each other. He used to get tensed when any application breaks in production and I used to take it lightly and jump on it and fix it quickly. One day when he came running to me to report an issue, I asked him to take a seat and calm down. He told me the issue in production. After hearing that I told him the following.

Do you realize that all the problems you report are happening inside the computer and they are virtual problems? He replied yes. I said it is just a virtual problem and we can solve it.

This did calm him a little bit and he was not that nervous for the next few times when something failed in production. After a few weeks, he came running to me to report an issue. I was wondering what happened to all my soothing talk. Again I told him that it is a virtual problem. He gave me a riveting reply which I will never forget.

The problem happens in a virtual environment but we are losing real money.

Sometimes we don’t understand the loss that customer face when something breaks down in production. These are my most valuable learnings. Once I started to take these two seriously I started enjoying my work more.

Hope this post helps you focus more on customer’s purpose and make your work a fun-filled experience.