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.
Megann and Steve