Customer Focus: What is your answer?

Truly focusing on your customer’s needs demands constant pivots in your work. Not everyone is up to the challenge, which causes organizations to misfire. And miss out.

This past Sunday, I participated in Ironman Wisconsin. If you’ve read The Competitor in Me series, you know that cancer is just one of the obstacles I’ve overcome to race Ironmans. You also know I’ve made a few key race execution mistakes.


I’ve always screwed up what to do after the race. Not enough food after the race, not enough food the day after the race. The finish of the race has food, but it’s not very good. The year they had bratwurst at the finish, I didn’t have a bite. It was my poor planning, as Madison has tons of restaurants and coffee places, many near the finish line, at what’s called Capitol Square. This year was going to be different. I had a post race plan and put my daughter Elise in charge of it.

Near the finish is a great little place called Colectivo café. If you read my blogs, you know I love Colectivo and Sportea. Colectivo was the object of my post race eating plan.

While we were at it, I planned to also have a hot Sportea before the race. I would buy a cold tea the day before the race, and then heat it race morning to have with breakfast. I would be warm, happy, and full of electrolytes. A great way to begin swimming 2.4 miles with 2900 people!


Packed and headed to Madison, the Sportea was forgotten in the fridge. Race morning, my friend’s Numi herbal tea was a distant second place. En route to the race start, I walked right past that Colectivo on the square. I peeked in the open door, only to be told they do not open until 6:00 a.m. I didn’t need that tea, really.

Two blocks away, the Starbucks was rocking and rolling. They are every year. I’m not sure what time they opened, but it was 5:08 a.m. and they were full of athletes and families. This place had everything people needed to power up for a very long day of racing or spectating. Starbucks had an answer for being cold, being hot, being nervous, being comfortable, being hungry, and maybe even being seen.

After finishing, I was very happy, and very cold. I had been thinking about that Sportea for the last 8 miles! My post race plan was in action: Joe packed my bike in his car, and Elise and I made the slow walk to Colectivo café. On the way, we passed that Starbuck’s, still buzzing. Some athletes take until midnight to finish an Ironman. Spectators had needs, Starbuck’s had answers!

Walking into Colectivo, I eyed a slice of chorizo quiche in the case. Elise ordered a slice and an extra large hot Sportea. Yes! I had my answer.

Then, disappointment. We were solemnly told the ovens were off, so nothing hot was available. Well, nothing hot would be made. There were at least eight pieces of quiche in the case. Plenty of inventory. No other alternatives were offered. Colectivo had no answer for us.

“We could go back to Starbucks.” Elise offered. Oh, I really wanted to, or go anywhere else that had warm food, but racing 140.6 miles killed my legs. I wanted to go home.

I settled for a slice of zucchini bread. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it settling. More like, I took the best of the worst options.

Customer focus means you have to think on your feet. Could that little slice of Heaven been zapped in a microwave? How long would that take? Was there another creative offering? The possibilities for accommodation were there, but she didn’t see them, by choice or by training.

Any team can have the best methods and mindset, but if they are not willing to pivot for their customer, the organization loses. You’ll lose to the buzzing teams of enterprises that have answers for their customers.


One thought on “Customer Focus: What is your answer?

  1. Pingback: Iteration: Getting it Right for the Customer | Francie Van Wirkus

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