The Value of Listening to Customers – Research and Beyond

Talking With Customers

There is an interesting balance between an entrepreneurial vision and the value of listening to customer feedback, feedback that happens early in an idea.  The kind of feedback that falls into the unsexy* category: research.

Many of our clients work in residential building, as builders, developers, architects and designers. After millennia of human kind creating shelter, it is remarkable the innovation and new ideas that emerge.  When you are entering new territory, operating out of your core business, or working with new customers or clients, getting customers to talk to you can give you the insights you need to succeed, or avoid the mistakes that can kill an otherwise great vision.

What are the keys to getting customers talking in a way that will help your business?  Here are some things to consider:

1. Talk to the People Who Matter.  Talk to the people who matter most, the ones you are counting on to like and purchase your product or service.  Talk to the people you would be marketing to if you launched the business today.

2. Make the Setting Comfortable.  To get the feedback you want to hear, the likes and the dislikes, you want to create a comfortable setting and put those involved at ease.  A neutral third party, a neutral setting and a conversational format can help fuel candor.  If you are working with a particular ethnic group, seek experts in creating an appropriate setting for your customers.

3. Seek the Full Range of Feedback.  Your goal:  hear the full range of thought happening among your customers.  Consensus is not the goal.  You want to know every perception, opinion, belief or attitude present in this group, positive, negative and uncertain.

What’s the benefit of the full range of feedback?  If someone in the discussion group feels this way, others in the greater community do to.  If you know of concerns before work starts you can address and solve the problems.  If you know what your customers love best about your idea, you can build on that.  If you’ve made an assumption that was not on target, this is your chance to find out and fix it.

”Research is not sexy,” was pointed out to me recently (not by a client).  Funny to think about for those of us focused on helping clients gain consumer insight.  And she was right.  Research is the gym membership you actually used.  Research is the bit of business insurance that tests your assumptions.  Research is not sexy, but it leads to sexy.  At least in my point of view.

What’s been your experience listening to customers?  Leave me a comment, I would love to hear about your experience! – Maureen

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