As part of the strategic planning process, I conduct customer interviews to gather feedback on satisfaction with the products and services delivered, key success factors and future positioning of a business. The conversations are revealing.
Customers are delighted to be consulted. They are open to share how they utilize the products and services, and insights that are unlikely shared in a standard survey. By dissecting the information, businesses could incorporate relevant pieces into their strategic roadmap and transformation initiatives. The following lists three areas where you can leverage customer feedback.
- Value from product and service offerings—this is an important affirmation from the customers that they receive value from your product and service offerings. Any gaps between what you hear and the value you set out to deliver require corrective action. The key benefit of having a dialogue with the customer to gather feedback instead of using a survey questionnaire is the opportunity to probe for details on the spot. For the customer, the frank exchange allows him raise issues that need resolution. You build trust in committing to follow-up. At the same time, the feedback offers ideas for improvements with products and services.
- Positioning of the business—asking your customers about who they view as your competition and ideas on future positioning could uncover fresh perspectives that might not be on your radar. The risk of breathing your own exhaust limits your ‘world’ view of the business. Businesses that are growing are more prone to complacency and tend to overlook atypical opportunities. When you leverage the conversation to seek insight on where the customer’s business is headed and how pending changes would impact his business, you receive needs and desires from your customer. This opens an ongoing conversation for gathering market intelligence. At the same time, you cultivate a partner relationship. This builds loyalty.
- Operational improvement—feedback on operations often comes through the customer support channels. Most revolves around staff interaction, service delivery and after-sale support. When you ask your customer, who is the buyer for your products and services, directly, the issues he raises are ones that affect his business the most. Pay attention to problems that you hear about constantly. In developing a solution, be cognizant about quick fixes that only address the symptom but not the cause. You want to ensure that the fix is sustainable. You want accolades about the solution next time you approach the same customer for feedback. In addition, these ideas on improvement enable you to be creative with ways to integrate your operations with the customer’s business processes. It is an excellent way to seed transformation ideas that boost productivity for both businesses.
Input from the customers provides first-hand information that you could use to improve your business. It is a task that you can incorporate easily into work associated with strategy development and business transformation. The nuggets unearthed in the process outweighs the effort invested in conducting the interviews.