May The Force Be With You

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April 06, 2017

What is the driving force for your organization?  For most organizations out there, I hope that answer has to do with satisfying and retaining customers. After all, what do we have without customers? Most likely, that answer would be not much revenue.

But for many organizations, the importance of the customer gets forgotten. Instead, the focus gets shifted to a process or becoming more efficient. All too often, the true driving force, your Customer - and their needs and wants - gets forgotten in the workload.

That is why I was so impressed with the idea at Mid-States Concrete Industries in South Beloit, IL. Mid-States has been focused on their customers for a while, but really made that focus an organizationally wide endeavor recently. Mid-States took a long look at their customers, and went through the process of creating customer avatars (very similar to developing personifications) so that all employees could better understand and relate.

During the process, they were able to identify that they have three main customers – Molly, an architect; Scott, a general contractor; and Joe, a Mid-States employee. An overview of each was created, including their wants and needs. Here is the part that is really cool - the overview they created now hangs on the wall of every conference room at their facility. Their driving force, their primary customer types, is in plain site for every meeting and every decision that needs to be made - a constant reminder of who the boss really is - the driving force behind their business.

To get some answers on how to create avatars, I went straight to the resident guru on customers at Mid-States, Vice President of Preconstruction, Jeremy Olivotti. I asked Jeremy a number of questions about the creation process – here are some important parts of our conversation:

Q: How does an organization go about starting the process?

A: “It is best to start with a group of associates that are customer focused. Then go through the process of discussing and identifying who your customers really are. Many organizations make a mistake here, and only focus on the person who signs the check.”

Q: How do you get past that roadblock of focusing on the wrong person?

A: “The group really needs to focus on the question ‘who do we need to help us do what we do?’ Again, it is not always the person actually writing the check. Quite often, it is the person who is helping to fill your pipeline with referrals.”

Q: Can you talk about some of the value you have seen from going through this creation process?

A: “This process is typically quite eye-opening for all involved.  It helps people in the organization realize that they are in the people business, regardless of their role. Molly, Scott and Joe have helped Mid-States employees relate to all of our customers, even though many of our associates may not deal with them on a personal level.”

“Another value realized from creating avatars is the ability to tell a story about them. When creating avatars, we dig deep into their specific likes, dislikes, dreams, who they are trying to impress, and how we help them meet their needs. All of this information helps us then tell a personal story about the avatar – which is so much more beneficial in creating a connection than simply focusing on the demographics.”

Here is my question for you - How do you keep the focus on your driving force?

Questions for Mid-States can be addressed to Jeremy Olivotti at

Related Tags:Customer Service, Processes