Knowing what your customer values about you

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Most companies think they know what their customer thinks of them – some through customer surveys, others through feedback. But most have it wrong – because their starting point for looking at what customers say is their own marketing and branding. So the values or marketing proposition they’ve defined themselves are the values they test customers against.

Yet they may have it completely wrong.

Some of the work we’ve been doing recently revolves around helping companies see themselves as their customers see them. Collecting stories about how they use services, about times when they interact with the call centre or the sales rep. Analysing those stories to see what differentiates negative experiences from bad ones, what sorts of interactions generate trust or erode it. And, instead of looking for “how many stories are about service/benefit A/problem X”, looking to see what patterns emerge.

One client recently expected to see “speed of service” coming out as a crucial element (they were about to launch a programme to improve exactly that). Absent from the data. Not a sausage. Instead, their customers wanted to be sure about the quality of the service – to some surprise, big customers were relying heavily on it. (Company execs were assuming that it was a useful, but not critical, part of customers’ business.)

Standard surveys would have asked about “speed of service” specifically and, because no-one will ever say “I want slow service”, they would have got a positive response to wanting faster service – a reinforcement of their own beliefs.

Instead, they could divert the intended resources to quality – safe in the knowledge that that investment would pay real dividends with their customers.

To them it was a breakthrough – particularly given that these customers were large multi-nationals with high value contracts. A false step can cost tens of thousands – better to know for real, than to be reassured of a false result…

1 Comment · 5 April 2011 at 8:25 am

Tony, you have hit the ‘nail on the head’ with this posting. All too often surveys only ever seek to reinforce pre-determined views and opinions and limiting beliefs.
Your approach opens up a different focus. I lecture (p/t) to Uni students from HR and LD and was recently discussing the dichotomy of being asked to design and deliver training and organisational activity based upon such surveys. By doing so, not only does this not meet expectations but HR/LD also get blamed for poor results.
Unfortunately, very rarely are HR/LD given the opportunity to explain how to correctly identify the need BEFORE designing the intervention.
Maybe some of my lecturing will change the behaviour and attitude of future HR/LD professionals but for now, the crusade continues 🙂

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