P&G's Lafley emphasizes putting the customer first

I just heard former chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble A.G. Lafley speak at the World Business Forum in New York City.

I just heard former chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble A.G. Lafley speak at the World Business Forum in New York City.

Lafley shared his knowledge and expertise with attendees as well as some old business secrets, such as his regret of not swapping Claritin for an over-the-counter drug the company had in development. Experts thought the drug in clinical trial would be a bigger hit, and Lafley said it is something he is still kicking himself for.

In discussing his views on bringing the customer into the creative proccess, Lafley made a few points business and PR professionals could learn from.

During his 30-minute conversation with Karen Dillon, deputy editor of the Harvard Business Review, Lafley talked about how whenever he went overseas or traveled to a different state he would first go into a consumer's home, go shopping at the grocery store with them, and then visit the Procter & Gamble office.

In his opinion, he said, businesses don't have a choice but to get to know the customer and he believes in “learning by doing.” He talked about sitting on the back porch, because that's where the washer and dryer were kept, with a consumer in Kentucky and learning how she does her laundry. He shared another story about sitting with his feet in a river in China talking to a woman, through a translator, about her laundry process.

He said you can't serve the customer unless you understand who they are and what they need and want.

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