As newly minted homeowners, my husband and I frequently visit home centres. On a recent visit, we chatted with the cashier, who mused that she’d seen us earlier that afternoon. She innocently asked why we needed so many supplies. We explained that we recently bought a home and that we’re renovating. She looked up with a shocked expression. “I guess that’s why people come to Home Depot. I never thought about it before,” she said, clearly astonished.

Until that day, the above cashier saw her job as scanning items and collecting money. After talking to us, she realized that she was helping people maintain and repair their homes.

Do you and your employees understand your customers? There’s a world of difference between selling things and solving problems. By taking the time to understand the problems your customers face, you can build whole solutions that help customers meet goals. Customers don’t care how their problems are solved — they just want them solved. For example, I wasn’t looking for a plumbing elbow — I was looking forward to watching TV while my new dishwasher cleans my dishes!

Even the smallest company can build a whole solution for a customer. By understanding your value chain, core competencies, and customer needs, you can identify the parts that make the whole. Your company can specialize in certain products and services, but work with researchers, developers, manufacturers, service specialists, warehousers, retailers and other partners. Together, you’ll provide a complete solution to your customers’ problems.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.