In my early career I worked for an IT service organisation. There were engineers everywhere: in their cars; out with customers; at their desks; by the coffee machine. You couldn’t leave the confines of the marketing ‘ivory tower’ without bumping in to them—and they were a friendly bunch so there was always a smile and sparky conversation.
Customer insight: off the record, uncut and uncensored
This banter told me what kinds of problems our customers were facing; and how we were solving them. It told me who were our most vociferous supporters—and detractors—and precisely what they thought about us and our products and services.
This insight cost me nothing—well little more than the price of a coffee and the occasional bacon butty. And okay, it wasn’t rigorously collected and statistically relevant but it was valuable, nonetheless, and fuelled a pipeline of customer references for our case study programme.
Relying on the insights and observations of your frontline folks
The HBR post on engaging with frontline staff , brought back memories. Within many organisations there’s a similar goldmine of insight that may be untapped.
We talk a lot about the voice of the customer in our line of work. We can run interviews, panels, focus groups and surveys to get close to this opinion—and do. We would always advocate involving one degree of separation and talking to sales and support staff, too. They spend every day with your customers and what they know costs you very little to find out.