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Consult Your Best Business Consultant – Your Customer

The secret to identifying your customer's sweet spot could just be your customer.

Time and time again, companies spend significant time and money to identify new products or services that will wow their customers and grow their business. Too often, the response from would-be buyers is lukewarm. If it's happened to your organization, it may be that you failed to work with the right business consultant — the customer itself.

In trying to determine a new product sweet spot, companies frequently turn to market research organizations. Remember the game of telephone we played as kids? Outsourcing this project to a market research company is just as effective. Ideas, issues, and experiences get watered down, lost, and/or jumbled by everyone involved. Don't outsource this project, instead do the work yourself and get out there.

When I say get out there, I mean get out there. Go and visit your customer. Spend time, energy, and money meeting with your customer and watching how systems, services, and products work — or don't work — for them. Spend time listening to your customers. Don't just spend time talking with upper-management. Instead, get into the trenches with the employees. This is where you will really learn what works and what doesn't. These real life experiences will provide insight for current product improvement, as well as a road map for future products.

Don't under resource this project. Your senior people, those with authority and resources to act, should be the ones involved with this project. They should be the ones going out and meeting with the customers.

Make sure that the effort goes to the very top of the organization. The CEO is the chief solutions architect, top salesman, and key messenger of your company. It will do him good to get out there and talk to people. Better still, the clients will love it.

14 comments on “Consult Your Best Business Consultant – Your Customer

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    September 13, 2013

    If there is one piece of advice everyone should heed then this is it but make sure not to out stay your welcome.

  2. _hm
    September 13, 2013

    Yes, this is very much true. But this requires lots of effort and effort should be very sincere. I have observed this in practice. But often, there is lack of patience and it left half way and it boomranges.So this is slow process and is good for long term gain.

     

  3. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 13, 2013

    There's a show on television currently called “The Customer is Always Right” where top organizations (i saw Mazda and Mrs. Fields Cookies) take two opinioned customers from a focus group and make them in charge for one week. In both shows i saw, the customers took things in directions the company couldn't have imagined. The organizations, meanwhile, had to struggle not to fight against what they were hearing. Any advice to organizations on how to stay focused on hearing rather than being right?

  4. Wale Bakare
    September 15, 2013

    Yeah, i cant disagree with you. I bet you some would struggle to hold to this as customers like grilling whenever things arent working as expected or placing service requests. Even, firms with enough resources do spend enormous amount of time ensuring right-it-first time happens when dealing with customers.

  5. Wale Bakare
    September 15, 2013

    >>Any advice to organizations on how to stay focused on hearing rather than being right?<<

    I would suggest empathetic with customers can make them reason along and heed to whatever advises

  6. Eldredge
    September 15, 2013

    @Hailey,

       Interesting concept for a TV show – I haven't senn it yet. I'll try to catch an episode.

  7. Michael Allen
    September 16, 2013

    Frank, this is great advice. Also, when listening to your customers, try to uncover what they are really trying to accomplish. When you understand the real problem you're in a much better position to help them solve it.  Then by combining your knowledge with theirs, you can often come up with a solution to accomplish that goal better, faster and cheaper than they'd have done if you just delivered the specific thing they were asking for without understanding the bigger picture. 

  8. ahdand
    September 17, 2013

    @Eldredge: I watched it and it was awesome. I think this is what we require. And informative session which has the capability to capture the mid set of the viewers.   

  9. Eldredge
    September 18, 2013

    Also, when listening to your customers, try to uncover what they are really trying to accomplish.


    @Michael,

       Great advice. Customers aren't always forthright with what they are trying to accomplish.Sometimes they assume you already understand their goals, even if they haven't provided adequate information. Other times, they may be trying to prevent disclosre of sensitive or proprietary information. Probing questions may be required to discern the problem clearly.

     

  10. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 18, 2013

    @Michael Allen, reallly excellent point. And, you end up with customers that think you are incredibly wise and clever. People truly appreciate it when they feel like they are being heard–it ends up making you look good and really solidifying the relationship.

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 18, 2013

    @everyone, i'd be interested if you have encountered examples of this in your business lives? Do you have a product example where listening the customer made it better? Do you have an instance where a failure to consult led to a disaster? I'd love to hear about it.

  12. Eldredge
    September 19, 2013

    @Hailey,

       I have had times when a customer was trying to describe their needs without disclosing proprietary information. In those cases, they usually know that they are being vague, and if you ask intelligent questions that show you are approaching the problem from the right assumtions or perspective, it makes a good impression.

  13. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 20, 2013

    @Eldredge, i'm willing to bet that after several of those intertactions, customer trust will grow substantially–and perhaps the conversation gets easier.

  14. Ashu001
    September 22, 2013

    Eldredge,

    Yes its most definitely true.

    What customers are looking for(above all else) is that you are genuinely interested in Working with them and Providing Services of Value to them.

    If you can do that;That's Half the battle won there and then.

     

     

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