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  • Writer's pictureJoel White

Customer in the Room

Few stories have influenced my thought process in business more than the Jeff Bezos' "customer in the room" mindset. If you are meeting to discuss a design, system, process, etc., what if one of your customers was in the meeting?


My consulting practice focuses entirely on service and technology providers, who in turn have their own sets of customers. My niche is helping them improving their pricing and finance tools and methodologies, so I extend this mindset more broadly to what if the customer had access to your policies, tools, and templates?


Here is how the mindset has influenced a number of recent discussions:

  • If your pricing tool is overly rigid because it has to match your timesheet categories, shouldn't it be the timesheet system that needs to change?

  • Would the customer be comfortable knowing you label something a reimbursable project expense that can't be supported by a receipt or invoice?

  • It's reasonable to require customer signoff on out of scope work before such work commences, but shouldn't you then hold yourself accountable for producing estimates for such work within 3-5 business days?

  • Shouldn't you put a fixed price around a scope of work you claim to have world class expertise in?

  • What's wrong with having line items without hours and rates supporting them?

  • Credit upfront funds back to the customer in the final months, instead of refunding after the project is done. B2B refunds are rarely processed efficiently or on time.

  • Your pricing should reflect how you'll work in the near to intermediate future- using better technologies and increasingly experienced personnel- instead of how your levels of effort "averaged out" over the last 24 months.

  • There's nothing wrong with marking up a third party vendor or partner budget, but do so in proportion to the value you add in conjoining services/products and be flexible with clients who prefer to contract separately with your partner.

  • Reducing the number of line items in your client-facing pricing is a worthy goal in and of itself, but not if it results in the client receiving change orders that change the price based on variables not disclosed in the contract or clear from the unit definitions.

How would you act differently, what would you implement differently, where you apply your focus differently, if your customer was sitting next to you throughout the day?

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