Demand management is a very bad idea — think about the need-to-demand curve

Benjamin P. Taylor
4 min readJun 22, 2022
Simon grižon Super split on a slackline.jpg Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Most of the good ideas in #customerrelations, ‘customer relationship management’, ‘demand management’, #digital and #technology in general are VERY BAD ideas unless you continue to deeply learn what your customers actually need.

It goes like this:

1- what customers ask for and actually need is specific to their context.
But we only hear what the customers want once it is translated into our language (estate agents turn ‘I want to view this house’ into ‘I want to subscribe to your selection of houses to view’)
Or we have *actively forced it* into our own categories (‘Press 1 for impotent frustration, Press 2 for eternal screaming into the void’)

2- so NOT ONLY do we work on *controlling* *our* idea of demand AND fail to think about the need and purpose behind the demand…
…we also lose site of what the customer actually values, from the get-go!

3- we then realise that, because the customer demand is mysteriously well-organised and, somehow, always increasing, it makes no sense to have our highly-paid professionals dealing with it!
Instead, we can hire cheap ‘front office’ people — who might be less grumpy with the customers, too, if we’re lucky — and train them to deal with standard service requests.
Then we only direct unusual or particularly complex requests to our true experts, now safely squirreled away in the ‘back office’ — after all, they don’t like the customers and all evidence shows the customers don’t like them.

The problem is…

When we don’t understand what the customers really want, we make it really hard for them to get their needs met.

When we separate the front and back office, we generate a vicious cycle: the front office specify what the back office do based on their limited ability to understand.
The back office try to do what is specified, but of course it doesn’t meet customer needs.
Therefore, there’s another demand on the front office, creating another poorly-specified request to the back office…

And suddenly the work is going up and up — while in management world, it’s a bit confusing, but our data is showing we’re doing a great job — it just must be that demand needs to be better managed!

What’s worst about this is that if we get to the need early and help people before their need gets worse, it’s a lot easier to help.

When we leave it later and later because we keep getting it wrong, the problem gets worse — the broken window turns into a leak and window frame damage and mold and sickness and losing a job and failing to pay the rent…

And if we DID take the trouble to understand what the customers *actually* ask for.

We might meet not only their demand but also their needs.

We could meet actual needs rather than grand plan predicted demand — and reduce costs

And get ahead of the need-to-demand curve and head off more needs as well!

Have you experienced this? Do you see the problem?