We’re always surprised when we see companies claiming to be customer-centric, yet acting in ways that seem to completely ignore what’s best for (or most wanted by) their customers. Organizations call on us to help them listen to their buyers or stakeholders, in order to create new products, to make decisions about messaging or communications campaigns, or to understand why the market for their product or service seems to be changing. They say they want to focus on the customer, and they believe they really mean it. But if they aren’t willing to ask questions that are relevant to those customers, at a time and place that is selected for the customer’s convenience, they’re sending a message that says, “I don’t care what you want”. So what can you do to make sure your next customer learning project is really about your customer, and not about you?
1. Ask the right person. Be sure you only take up the valuable time of someone who can really provide answers to the questions you need. If they decline to answer, ask them if they can recommend someone else who is able to help.
2. Use their time wisely. Make it possible for the customer to provide you with answers at their convenience, since you’re the one asking them to do something for you, for which they may not see any immediate benefit. That may mean going to them, instead of having them come to a focus group facility or answer the phone at a certain time. Or it can also mean providing a survey that they can stop and start, so they can consider their answers carefully.
3. Trust them to be able to understand your question. Tell the customer, clearly and succinctly, what problem you’re trying to solve, by asking. For example: Bob, we’ve noticed that XYZ Co. isn’t buying our widgets any more, yet your field offices tell us they still like our widgets the best. Can you help me get to the heart of the problem?
4. Listen to their answer. Even if what they tell you isn’t what you expected to hear, it isn’t wrong. Remember how your grandpa told you, “The customer is always right”?
5. Let them know how they’ve helped. Once you’ve decided what to do with what they’ve told you, give them some feedback: Thanks for your input. Because of you, and others like you, we’ve realized the Q37 Space Modulator needs updating. We’ll be working on that, and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Keep these things in mind, and you’ll start to build a richer, deeper understanding of customers who will be willing to keep the conversation going.
Always asking questions,
Megann & Steve