While sitting in the audience at a user conference a few weeks ago, I overheard two gentlemen talking behind me. (I wasn't being nosy, but they had to talk loud enough to hear each other over the music that was playing, so I couldn't help but hear them, too!)
One mentioned how unhappy he was in his new job, which wasn't coming off as he had expected or hoped. "I'm basically a lab rat now," he said. "I sit in my office and troubleshoot and do a lot of interesting things, but I have no access to customers." The other asked, "Why don't you just take some time out to meet with customers?" Sounds like logical advice, but unfortunately, that's a role that only sales and top execs play at his company, he responded. Apparently, that's the corporate culture.
Wow, what a shame. This guy wants to know what customers are thinking, he's eager to hear how he might improve what he does based on their feedback, and he can't get out of the office to meet with them or pick up the phone and call them? It's not like he's an accountant asking to get involved in the science of building rockets or anything.
I'd like to think that this company is an anomaly, but I did an informal poll of some of my friends in IT and heard some of the same things. For some, it wasn't a matter of corporate culture that they weren't allowed to make contact, but, rather, no one has thought to ask if they want to hear directly from customers. I've heard of companies that make innovation part of everyone's job description. Wouldn't it be nice if customer awareness and contact also were part of everyone's role? And I don't mean just in IT, but any business.
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