Understanding and Serving Your Customers

Learn from these companies that are doing it right.


Recently, I attended a public forum called “Healthcare in the 21st Century: A Community Call to Action.”

The keynote speaker was Dr. Atul Gawande, author, surgeon and healthcare thought leader. Gawande said that patients, like customers, have a level of expectation on quality and deserve a capability to make informed choices.

In fact, in his book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” he uses examples from the airline and construction industries to explain how to get it right.

He was encouraging healthcare providers to think in new ways about customer service, and he complimented those present at the talk who were already doing so.

Gawande said that creating and implementing innovative solutions for customers based on good information delivers results. Commercial businesses are not dealing with life-and-death situations, but there are many who are emerging from tough economic times by doing exactly what Gawande prescribes.

Companies that have their “ear to the ground,” observing consumer trends and reinventing the way they do things for their customers, are also keeping their businesses healthy and delivering profits.

Here are some great examples:

Hungry for Information

Companies like Starbucks are trying to address the huge global concern about unhealthy diets.

They are listening to their customers’ desires for calorie information and healthier food, and responding by posting this information in their stores and on their websites and actively changing their offerings. While they do sell plenty of high-fat, high-sugar, caloric foods, they also offer alternatives. For example, Starbucks prominently displays nutrition information on its menu blog.

Here customers can learn all about the foods and drinks that are low in calories, share the information with others and post their comments.

The company also has fliers prominently posted in each of its stores so that customers can readily obtain nutrition information. This year, Starbucks announced a new customer feedback site called My Starbucks Idea, where customers can share ideas and vote on others.

The posted Starbucks results showed nearly 39 percent shareholder return on investment and $13.3 billion in revenue for 2012.

Next page: Running on Innovation, A New Solution for City Dwellers, Focus on Customers

Andrea Cotter
Andrea Cotter
Andrea Cotter is the Founder and President of Virgilio & Cotter, LLC where she focuses on Marketing and Communications Strategies specializing in the Health Care industries. She also teaches C-Suite Leadership in her role as an adjunct faculty member at NYU's School of Professional Studies. In addition to her own company, Andrea has had both a corporate and entrepreneurial career in marketing and communications as a Global Executive at IBM Corporation and as SVP and Chief Communications Officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), followed by a brand consultancy role at Straightline and a partnership in the workplace culture startup CultureTalk. She speaks several languages, including Spanish, Italian and French has done consulting work with clients in Europe, US and Asia.

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