If you are a business leader, look at your calendar. Are there any entries for speaking with customers?
“But we send out surveys and get tons of feedback.”
Yes, the cry of so many managers who think they can know their customers from looking at a spreadsheet.
Imagine you have a friend who asks you to help paint their kitchen. You say yes and show up on Saturday morning with a bunch of paint. Your friend is puzzled. You brought green paint and they don’t want green paint.
“I Googled it, and green is the most popular kitchen color,” you say, scratching your head.
If this sounds silly, it is, but think of how many companies do exactly this when they base their knowledge of customers on data and focus groups.
Numbers on a page are very different to listening to a real-live person talk about their challenges and needs. It’s like the difference between a studio recording and a live concert. There are so many nuances that aren’t there in a recording that do show up when you see and hear it happening before you.
And handpicked focus groups? Well, they miss the urgent, emotional quality of a random customer who may or may not be a fan. I once worked with a company who would put together panels of customers who either all loved the company or all hated the company. It was either a lovefest or a beat down and neither were realistic.
What’s my point? I’m going to suggest something radical. Why not set aside time each week to pick up the phone and call a few customers? Ask them how well your company delivers on its promises? How well your company solves problems? How difficult you are to do business with? Ask them what their challenges are and how your company can help solve them? Ask them what their lives are like? Put simply, get to know your customers, your everyday, average customers.
Take notes, talk with your employees, fix things, make changes, and, most critically, stay in touch with those customers. Business is, after all, about relationships.
If you want your business to make a difference in the lives of your customers, you need to know them as people, not data. That only comes from real, human contact.
Now, go back and start filling in your calendar.
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