In an earlier post I discussed why rejecting customer requests is a good thing.  If that sounds counter-intuitive the next statement will too.

Implementing customer requests is a bad thing.  Not implementing all requests, just certain requests that I call “Robin Hood” ideas.  You’ll recall that Robin Hood “robbed from the rich to feed the poor.”  Unfortunately, the same thing happens today in “well run” companies when they implement unneeded customer ideas, when they implement Robin Hood ideas.

As service professionals do we have an obligation to talk with customers and understand their needs?  Absolutely!  But we have an obligation during the conversation to think past the request to focus on the desired outcome.  Clarifying what the customer wants is necessary, though not sufficient.  Companies must also understand what the customer is trying to achieve.

Henry Ford is said to have observed “if I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”

Unneeded ideas are toxic to businesses (thus ultimately to customers) because they introduce an inefficient opportunity cost.  Implementing ideas with little value impedes your ability to introduce and refine transformative ideas of much greater value to your company and customers.  (For more on a related topic, check out Jim Collin’s post.)

The pivot point is that Robin Hood ideas steal resources from innovative ideas with strategic value.  Imagine how effective he could have been with a Model T!

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