Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Talking with Customers

I just posted a comment at What's Your Brand Mantra and I thought I'd share this with you. Jennifer Rice wrote about talking with customers, and as you know that's frequently a topic of this blog. (By the way, that's Jennifer to the left.)

I agree with Jennifer that there is NO one way to get this input; we must get it from every resource we can ... including talking with customers.What we have to be good at is deciphering all the input we get from various sources and use this to make decisions about products, branding, pricing, promotions, service, etc.

For one, I have grown tired of focus groups and like to get input from one-on-one discussions. I also get a lot of insight from our website click stream by posting content options that give the visitor a choice of two different paths. How they go about selecting content is then very instructive.

It is essential to talk to customers. An example, recently a colleague of mine attended a conference with information systems managers. He went to the conference with a predisposed concept that our customers were all doing programming for desktop users and that the mainframe was a dead territory. He observed a lot of attendees who were programming for their company mainframe systems ... and that these were not older managers hanging onto mainframe systems of the past ... they were young, bright and energetic programmers who saw their futures in mainframes. This was an observation that hit our company like ice water in the face. It happened because one of us went out among the unwashed and talked with them while the rest of us sat back at headquarters reading Gartner reports.

What if every manager in your company was required and held accountable for talking to one customer a day? The body of insights would be an incredible competitive advantage.

Second, it is very difficult to get customers to tell you what they want in terms of products. If it does not already exist, they have trouble imagining it. But if you focus your questions on what problems are they having that they cannot now solve and you let them rant on what's wrong, then with a good marketing background we should be able to devise solutions to these unmet needs.


At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jennifer can ask me a question anytime, she's H-O-T!

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Dale Wolf said...

Dear Anonymous: The important thing is that Jennifer is really smart and articulate.

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous ashley said...

You are right when you say that you can’t get your product information from one source. Seems like doing that would leave you with very inaccurate or one sided information. Just one source doesn’t cut it for any kind of research… ever. So that shouldn’t change know.

Customers are the real voice of your product. Endless reports and numbers don’t get you close to knowing how people feel about their service. When people are not given a voice to tell about performance they become somewhat infantile. Babies cry because they have no way to voice their problems. People express their dissatisfaction with a product by not buying it. Reports don’t show a simple problem that could easily be fixed, you just have to simply ask your consumer.

That is so true about customers not knowing what they want in a product, only able to voice what they find wrong with it. I nitpick a million things that are wrong with my phone, computer, or even latest organization, but I have no way of solving it. If managers who had the power of solving problems could formulate problems, little by little, into a workable solution I think it would undoubtedly make the consumer happier. But is it unrealistic to ask managers to take time away from their normaly busy day to listen to people complain and then find a solution?


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