What Do They Think?

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” ~ Thomas Berger

Ask and Learn

As human beings, we tend to see things, well, as we see things. But, what your potential customers, existing customers and employees think of your company will open your eyes.

That eye-opening knowledge can make you proud, or can make you cringe. No matter the feelings this insight evokes, it’s what you do with the information that makes all the difference between moving forward, marching in place, or even losing ground.

Make Research a Component of Your Marketing Plan

Every company can benefit from market research. Quantitative and qualitative research should be a regular part of your marketing plan, and making sure your budget has money for research is essential.

Why is market research important? Simply put, you’re not a mind reader. You can’t tell what people think until you ask. Remember one thing; ask no matter how painful you fear the answers will be.

Until you inquire, you don’t know how you can respond to your employees’ and customers’ needs, how to improve their experience with your company and how to develop your products and services going forward. As important, until you ask, you won’t know what you’re doing right so that you can keep doing it!

There are many ways companies conduct market research. Most often, it is a combination of surveys and face-to-face feedback that allows for a complete view of what people are thinking.

Surveys and Focus Groups

Surveys conducted in person, over the phone and online are all options to gather quantitative data. The information you hope to extrapolate from a survey will dictate which tool is best. Investing in a professional to create your questions will ensure objective results.

There are a number of free online survey tools available (Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Zoho Survey, Typeform, Survey Planet) and they are easy to use. The key to getting good results from surveys, however, is making sure they are designed to give you valuable data and feedback.

Qualitative research – focus groups – gives you the opportunity to dig deeper than responses to a survey. You have the opportunity to ask more than the question and to understand why respondents answer the way they do and what they mean by their answers. This research offers the most insight into the thoughts of your customers. This research is more costly than surveying, but some argue it gives the best data. Again, a professional leading this research is essential to getting the best information.

Bottom line, guessing at what people are thinking is not a good business strategy. If you want your business to succeed, be open to the feedback your customers, your employees and your potential customers have to offer and then act on that feedback.

Where We Fall Short

As business owners and managers, we want to ensure that our customer service is excellent. We have systems and procedures, computer programs and even talking points to make sure our employees are making our customers happy.

customers need personal service

Rule #1: Don’t frustrate your customers

We have all sorts of access points – face-to-face, email, telephone, social media, online chat – to let our customers get in touch with us. We can pat ourselves on the back because we are providing “excellent” customer service.

Whoa! Slow down a second. Before we get all self-congratulatory, ask yourself one thing. Despite all of the best practices you’ve put in place, did you solve your customers’ problems?

The answer might well be no.

When it is no, your customer walks away frustrated and unhappy. Trust me, they don’t keep that frustration to themselves, either. The words of an existing customer can make or break any business. It is, by far, the most trusted form of promotion a company will have.

So, how do you fix the unsolved problem issue? Ask your customers about their experiences with your company. If they say their issues are unsolved, find a way to fix the issues and don’t put the responsibility for fixing the issue in your customer’s lap.

I recently had an issue with a company that did not fulfill my online order. When I tried to get the pending charge for the item removed from my card, I was told by both the company and the bank that neither one could remove it. I literally felt like a ping-pong ball, bouncing between two customer-service reps. Now, I’m dissatisfied with two companies!

Where we often fall short is in living our customer’s experience and implementing changes that prevent failures in our systems. With today’s technology, either company could have solved my problem with a simple three-way call between both reps and myself.

The best advice any business owner and manager can accept is to walk in your customer’s shoes.

The first step is to realize that you are already customers with other companies, so identify the things that you don’t like and make sure they don’t happen to your customers. Then, go a step further and find ways to see your business through their eyes.

Your customers don’t know the inner workings of your company and they shouldn’t need to, so don’t make excuses or offer apologies for your systems. All they need from you is an experience that fulfills their needs and is pleasant.

A satisfied and appreciated customer equals many new customers!

So What if it’s Pretty?

A client told me yesterday that she just didn’t like how a group of designed icons looked. When I probed further, she couldn’t substantively explain why, nor could she tell me what she does like in design. Okay, I get it. Design, like most creative efforts, is subjective. Personal taste counts. But, taste does not trump strategy.

Good design starts with a strategy and a goal. Great designers begin a design around those two factors and then add their creativity.

Graphic designers use strategy

Taste does not trump strategy

A designer friend told me about something that she had created and her client felt it looked “simplistic”. Okay, who is the audience? Are the message receivers not sophisticated? Or, will the audience be in a position to see something briefly, like on a billboard near a busy highway, and not have time to look deeply at a complicated design?

The next thing to consider is that while your personal taste counts, yours is not the only one that matters. The best looking logos have gone down in flames, because a focus group did not relate to what the logo needed to say. And, yes, that kind of qualitative research is essential in creating a logo. For other designs that don’t carry the magnitude of weight that a logo does, pulling together an informal group to review the designs and offer constructive comments will help you determine what resonates best.

Finally, when you don’t “like” a design, explain what you do like. Describe it. Better yet, find examples and show them to your designer.

If you want great design, you must understand your audience and the goals you have in conveying messages. Design does not start with good looks; it starts with good strategy.