Customer Research - a health warning

Paul Orangetree

Paul Orangetree on Customer Research - a health warning

Customer research is so important of course. Right until it ruins your business.

I am being serious, I promise. This article has been rattling around in my brain, but I was spurred towards the keyboard by being asked to complete a customer feedback survey. The results of my answers is going to cause a terminal loop back in the database analysis department. This was not deliberate, I promise.

You see, all the questions were leading me down a route I did not want to go. We do this all the time. You do. I do. We all do.

An idea about our business jumps into our brains, and it is nurtured there until it is so shiny we file it in the box marked awesome. All we need now is some confirmation. Someone to tell us just how shiny it really is. So we write a customer survey full of leading questions. Or we ask our mum. These two approaches are of broadly equal value.

These is because surveys are not really engaging with people. They have their place, but they are not engaging with people. That involves listening, and absorbing stuff. It needs open questions, and an opportunity for people to reply freely. It needs to give them time to think, and not just to nod.

I do have an example. I recently test drove a luxury car. It was awful. I did not enjoy it. It lacked character. I had a million features, of course, but lacked my favourite - driving feel. The survey was getting me to tell them about all the features I want. There was no space to nicely point out why I buy a car.

This does not only happen with cars though. I get asked about my CRM system. My accounting package. My lawnmower. All of these things have a pile of great features, and some of those just make the thing more complicated and do not make it more fun, or easier, to use. I simple do not use all the 678 modes on my washing machine. I use 2. OK, 3. I suspect, though, that somewhere, on a customer survey, someone said these features were a good idea. All because the designers, and the board, wanted a justification for their shiny idea.

So here is my tip. Don't lead your audience if you want actual feeback. Understand them. Understand the problem you are solving for them. No one filled out a survey saying they wanted an impossibly irritating cubic puzzle, but it worked out OK.

The additional features you want to sell? All potentially great but make sure they link back to your audience's feelings, and experiences.

You want your product to be fun to use.

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