Success Habit #4 Invite the Customer to every meeting.

Want to maintain constant customer input to your business? Invite them to your meetings.

Customer feedback has been considered vital to business success since the age of the customer began back in the nineteen nineties. By 2012, an American writer estimated that we each received 10 survey invitations per week. Today, in Australia in 2016, I receive an invitation to complete a survey of some kind 2-3 times per day, or about 20 per week. Survey Monkey alone generates over 2 million survey responses per day and that was before they launched mobile. Businesses want and need to know how they are doing and what else they could do to improve their offering.

The end user of your product/service is your customer – so who better to ask? But at this rate customers are dangerously close to being surveyed to death.

So, here’s a better way to get customer input without survey fatigue –

  1. Invite the customer to all your meetings
  2. Hold super-small targeted customer input sessions
  3. Use surveys at customer interactions
  4. Provide channels for a constant customer conversation

The often miss-quoted and wrongly attributed line, ‘If Henry Ford had asked his customers if they wanted a motorcar, they’d have probably told him what they really wanted was faster horses’– is regularly used to discount and discredit the real value of customer input into product and service design. This quote was not made by Henry Ford. The real truth is that those who know how to collect and analyse customer input correctly can and do implement successful customer insight driven products and services that dominate existing markets, introduce new markets and disrupt entire industries.

  1. Inviting the customer to all your meetings

Firstly, understand that every meeting that takes place in your organisation and every decision that you make, ultimately impacts the products and services you provide. Whether you alter R & D spend, or implement new business software, or hire new staff, or don’t do any of these things, the customer is ultimately impacted. Getting a customer representative to physically attend all your meetings is obviously not a viable option – but you can have a physical reminder of them. You can add the customer viewpoint/impact to your standard agenda; you can allow 5 minutes to reflect on the customer impact after every decision; or you could invite a customer to your product or service strategy sessions. I encourage businesses to have a physical representation of the customer like a life-sized cardboard cut-out of their customer personas or even just a photograph of real customers, in their office meeting rooms at all times. What a fantastic reminder to think about the customer at every meeting!

 

  1. Holding super-small targeted customer input sessions

Conducting broad surveys and holding large sessions with random cross-sections of your customer-base is useless. As John Lydgate famously said ‘You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.’ Getting a large, random, or whole customer-base sample for your input is trying to satisfy all of the people! Don’t waste your time and money – instead spend your efforts identifying your BEST customer or BEST customer segment. Then conduct customer input sessions with them in super small groups – (I mean 2 or 3 at a time, small) and select them by interview to ensure you really have representatives of your BEST customer. Make the sessions long – 4 hours long, like all morning, 8:30 to 12:30 and give participants something of value to them for their time. The next and most important thing is to conduct the feedback sessions based on USER or CUSTOMER OUTCOMES not solutions. This method described here has been around for at least a decade but is rarely practiced well.

 

  1. Use surveys at customer interactions

Your customer touch points are the way your customers experience your brand, your product and your service. These touch points are best monitored and improved incrementally through surveys at the point of interaction. There is little use asking a customer before their problem is solved whether they are happy with the service, but that is exactly what Telstra’s call centre does. Likewise there is reduced value in a customer’s opinion of their last interaction with your company if it was a month prior. Instant surveys that are short and simple to answer allowing verbatim comments are the most useful – but remember what they are for, incremental improvement! Don’t make the questions wide-reaching, stick to a single function/feature/service area and change the question when you have the information you want. A good survey has the Transactional NPS question and 1 other improvement focus question, then a verbatim/comment section. That’s all!

When surveying, don’t forget the golden rules of questioning;

1) don’t ask the question if you already know the answer; and

2) don’t ask the question if you don’t intend to do anything with the answer.

 

  1. Provide channels for a constant customer conversation

Maintaining an ongoing conversation with your customers may appear to be getting easier with the rise and rise of social media, interactive web apps and secure customer portals, but in actual fact it is getting harder. As your customers have greater access to more and more information sources, the time they have left for you is dwindling.

In a world where accessible information is profuse, attention and focus become rare commodities.

It is no longer useful to rely on a blog/newsletter and/or a social feed to connect with your customers. You need to build a real conduit that your customer identifies with that connects them to your organisation. It needs to be on their terms, it needs to recognise that we are all different, we use different devices at different times for different things. You cannot focus on a single product or channel, it should be multi-channel and your customer should be able to accomplish all customer transactions on all channels (or at least most!).

Invite your customer into your business, you will be surprised what they can tell you!