Your Customers Deserve a License to Play

Even when companies insist that they want to know what their customers really think, believe, want, or need, there is often an innate desire to control the conversation. To argue. To defend. To explain. This can get in the way of true, open expression by the respondent (your customer). Combine this with the wish to ensure every question gets answered, every assumption explored, and any possibility accounted for, and soon you have…a survey. We’ve even seen focus groups, designed for open, creative exploration of feelings and ideas, turn into something more like interrogations – with numbered questions, insistent probes, long lists of information to be rated and ranked, and scales for nearly everything. The problem for the customer is that all of that seems like too much work. To be realistic, your customer simply doesn’t work that hard at deciding whether to investigate, like, or purchase your product. So how can you make your research process more like discovering, exploring, or shopping?

One way is to let your customer play. Serious games (games with a purpose) like Innovation Games™ make it possible for customers to have fun, and still answer important questions. Questions like:

  • How should our product evolve over time to give you the newest features you want or need?
  • Are there older features that aren’t important to you anymore, or that you never really used in the first place?
  • What sort of relationships would you like to see between our brand and the brands of others?
  • How do you want to interact with our company?
  • Do you feel like we really understand you?
  • What other products do you want to use in combination with our product?
  • Can you show us why the features of your ideal solution are important to you?
  • If we can’t give you everything you need right away, what should we give you first?
  • Do you use our product in ways we didn’t expect?
  • Is there something we’re doing that makes it difficult to use our product or service, instead of easy?

The reason games work is that they’re not work! They make the process of finding the answers to big (and small) questions more fun and engaging – for your customer, but also for you. Humans are naturally programmed to lean toward fun over work, so building entertainment into your research process is a proven method to getting excellent results.

Game on!

Megann and Steve


Distilling the Meaning for Better Research

This week, we’re in the midst of planning for our annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner. But Last week we attended a full-house meeting of the OPMA, where Hélène Moore gave a high-energy talk on new perspectives in brand strategizing. Professor Moore also pointed out that the days of the 200-slide research deck are over. How can you avoid having your Research partner show up with one of those yawn-inducing behemoths? Since we have research and St. Patrick’s Day on our mind, we thought a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey might yield some clues…

Choose the Recipe Carefully

Every great Irish whiskey starts off with a closely guarded recipe. Like this, your team can begin with clear, well-formulated set of research objectives. Invest in a great presentation at the outset – by making sure everyone who will be contributing to the process and receiving the results buys in to the objectives, right at the start. Beer and whiskey can’t come out of the same cask at the same time, no matter how hard you try.

Don’t Pollute the Batch with Excess “Fixings”

“Add-on-itis” can happen when there’s a legacy questionnaire (think tracking study) that has been around for so long, no one remembers why some of the questions were asked in the first place. Yet, fearful of missing something important, no one wants to pull the plug on outdated lines of exploration. After you’ve taken time to select a recipe, beware of someone sneaking extra fixings into the mash. Be a ruthless editor – cut everything that doesn’t contribute to the objectives of the research, and if someone wants to keep something that doesn’t fit, ask them to justify how it does.

Distillation Takes Time

There’s plenty of information out there to be had in the public domain. We’re so used to simply plugging in search terms and coming up with quick answers, that it’s easy to forget that just because the results are in, doesn’t mean the answer is ready. But if the information you need is precise enough that you need to ask the source directly, don’t settle for data. Look for meaning. A great research partner will sort through those 200 slides and distill the meaning. Jameson’s, that great Irish Whiskey, is triple-distilled for a reason – because taking time yields a better result.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,

Megann and Steve

Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Clear Customer Feedback

Have you ever acted on customer feedback, delivering exactly what they wanted, only to have them reject your new offering? We’ve frequently heard this scenario touted as the rationale for not doing market research. Or, expressed as a headline: “Why Focus Groups Don’t Work”. Or better yet, “Customers Don’t Know What They Want.”

In our observation, the problem is usually more complex than that. When we’re called in by clients to look at why their strategy isn’t working, even if they believed they were delivering exactly what the customer requested, miscommunication is frequently at the heart of the problem. It’s not that the client didn’t ask customers what they wanted. It’s also not that the customer couldn’t or didn’t express their needs. They did. But we find that what the customers said is not always what the client heard. (We can see you asking yourself, “What?! Where are they going with this?”)

Between the sending and receiving of information, encoding occurs. Semantics, semiotics, and filters impact the messages in both directions. This can result in a distorted signal. Successful companies employ a process of repetitive feedback specifically to remove this distortion. Each time the customer speaks, these organizations repeat back, “This is what I heard you ask for”, in their own words. Then they take time to listen, and adjust accordingly. We like to think of this continuous feedback process as a brand’s own sort of noise-cancelling headphones. It lets them confirm, correct, and ultimately deliver what the customer wants, based on a clear, undistorted signal.

We’re listening,

Megann and Steve