Désirée Bambynek

How companies can cure daily overwhelm syndrome

And how customer-centricity is key to more balanced, relaxed individuals.

My inbox currently boasts 12 unread emails (an all-time low), seven of which are flagged. I receive a spam dosis of 53 emails per week. My iPhone alerts me of 14 new tweets / follows / mentions per day. I receive three reminders to early morning meetings and at least twelve Linkedin or Xing notifications per week. And that’s just my business self during a relatively slow month. In my personal life, add reminders of family birthdays, my must-read-booklist, out-of-the-ordinary bills, online shopping expenses via Paypal to keep track of, housekeeping and administration of said house.

Not to mention my own extracurricular interests and plans to further my knowledge base. Oh, and sports, meditation, friends and time reserved for doing absolutely nothing. Keeping up with current global affairs, professional topics and my favorite Netflix shows (which I consider as both professional and personal research). And I don’t even have kids. Add a family of little people to the list and you are left with a very, very busy life.

With the demands of everyday life at an all-time high, it comes to no surprise that people are starting to zone out on anything outside of their personal spheres. Parents have less and less time for their child-free friends, singles are always off to the next social occasion and young couples are learning to think in “we”-terms. With all this forced “me, myself and my todos”-thinking taking place, how can we save ourselves from a modern survival meltdown?

Today’s overwhelm could be tomorrow’s egotism.

Having to keep track of an increasing amount of details, responsibilities and todos seems to have become the new personal burnout. As a millennial I may have grown up with rapid technological developments and increasing bureaucratic entanglements as companies and government slowly switch to digital-first – processes, administration, communication, service, you name it. But I still find myself overwhelmed in keeping up with the countless responsibilities and necessities that come with this digital flexibility: passwords, logins, account information upkeep, administrative tasks and what-not of basic day-to-day.

Recently, a friend coming into his own independence after his studies lamented about having to go grocery shopping once a week. Or manually having to pay the quaterly banking bill. We are the same generation. If the overwhelm has perforated Gen Y, aka Millennials, what will Gen Z young adults feel like?

It is this lament and daily life overwhelm that have been and will keep bringing forth a new era of service.

Focussing on customers’ pain points has never been more necessary. With the increased streams of information, administration and daily basic survival, made even more complex by our additional need for personal fulfillment, anything that streamlines, simplifies or just plainly takes it off our hands is in high demand.

As consumers, we expect a business or service we frequently use to know and anticipate our needs and desires. This has been a given for a few years now. And we know it is possible because the technological development that makes it accessible to every business is an ever-present news topic. And every business in turn is made up of many individuals who also lead private lives, who are faced with the same challenges and complexities, and who get irritated by the exact same frustrating service(-lacking) models.

So why are so many businesses failing at resolving customer pain points and developing customer-centric solutions – be it in product development, service or general communication?

My customer is me and I am my customer.

There is a fine but tangible line between when a company strives for customer focus and when it reaches customer-centricity. While focus brings you closer to your customer, you still see yourself as separate from him or her. True customer-centricity means you yourself are the customer. And everything centers around the customer’s interaction and needs.

You stop thinking like the company and start perceiving service and communication from the receiving end.

Naturally, this is a mindset that needs to seed and grow within a company. It’s not enough that marketing or product development understand and live by it. All divisions need to embody it.

Your shoes are too big for me.

„Walking in someone else’s shoes“ as an analogy comes to mind here. It’s not enough to imagine what your customer is going through, really experience it for yourself. It may involve calling your own call center and waiting 20 minutes on hold before having the system automatically hang up on you. It may mean signing up for all the newsletters and social streams and really getting a feel for how the communication is received. And what is being said. Or it may mean actually putting a focus group together or doing field observations.

Transform your thinking.

Transform your thinking from „Hey, we spent so much time on that newsletter, it looks awesome!“ to „We spent so much money on this, but it’s really not making a difference for the customer.“

It’s time to detach ourselves of the products of our efforts.

And learn to access our own „I am a customer“-mode. It’s harder than business as usual. But it also bears more fruit in the long run. Especially because we are making the daily juggle of priorities, necessities and enjoyments easier, better and more enjoyable.

After all, that is the true magic of customer-centricity.