On purpose and need: an example

In my previous blog post I strongly advocated the need to determine purpose and need in our knowledge management planning and strategic thinking.  In fact, purpose and need are important in most business contexts.

To illustrate the point more, I was pleased to read in my latest Good Experience newsletter about how a major US hotel chain (Courtyard by Marriott) went about reinventing itself in order to deliver a better service to meet customer need.  You can read the interview from the Good Experience blog.  Also of interest, and something I have advocated previously, is thinking about marketing principles and practices and how we can use this in our knowledge management activities.

The key message from the interview was in defining a purpose (who is our customer and how do we service that customer to ensure they prefer to stay at Courtyard by Marriott) and working out the best way of meeting that particular need.  The method Courtyard by Marriott took to undertake this transformation was in good market and customer research.  Out of this research came “a set of insights based on what we learned from our segmentation, interviews, and ethnography”. Courtyard by Marriott calls these results the “brand blueprint” and the rest of the interview talks about how the hotel chain went to work making the “brand blueprint” come to reality.

And the result: “We’ve seen a dramatic change in our market share, almost 10%, a 28% increase in guest satisfaction from the new lobby, and average food profit has increased 113%”.

The classic marketing approach to determine who really is your customer is something that practitioners in knowledge management should also consider seriously.  Sometimes, it is important to realise that one cannot service everybody to the same extent or in the same way.  It is certainly the case that people have different needs even inside the one organisation.  When the hotel chain determined who was the main game, they sought to understand this particular segment in order to determine how best they could match their needs.  I am curious to find out if they used any form of archetype analysis in their research. 

As a consequence of the research and analysis, the company worked out strategies and designs that would support the now-recognised needs of the customer.  Listening to your customers is very important and doing what is best for them (and not just for yourself) is critical.

I think that those of us in knowledge management can take some lessons from this essentially marketing experience to enhance our own abilities to rethink our purpose and meet the needs of our particular client groups.


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