August 2010

Dear Reader

Are you making the most of your customers? Discovering what they think about your product or service before and after they buy from you will sharpen your competitive edge.

Read on to discover how talking to your customers can represent the difference between success and failure, and to see our top tips for gaining those critical customer insights.

If you’ve found this newsletter helpful, do get in touch to tell us why. And if there’s something you feel we should have added or done better, we’re keen to hear about that too. It’s all part of listening to our customers!

Happy reading!


Martin Holliss

t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501

What are your customers really thinking?

Whether you’re launching a new product or service or looking for feedback on your current offering, it’s amazing what you can learn by talking to your customers.

Get your new product off to a good start…

Creating a product or service that sells is tough. Even modest estimates put the failure rate for new products at a startling 50%. And the most common reason they fail is that they don’t meet customer needs.

So talking to, and learning from, your customers is of critical importance, and it’s up to you to help them articulate what they want.

By exploring with an open mind the challenges your customers face, you will be in a better position to identify the product or service features needed to address those challenges.

…then stay in touch with customer needs

There are several ways of doing this.

Brainstorming with your staff can highlight feedback they’re getting from customers and reveal areas of satisfaction and/or concern. Although if you don’t also talk to your customers, you risk discovering what your staff believe to be the problem, but not necessarily the actual problems your customers are experiencing.

To discover how customers use your product or services (or why they use your competitors), you could set up a series of conversations or interviews, either face-to-face or by telephone, You could do these yourself or employ an external market research agency.

If you need statistically-robust percentages, quantitative research will establish exactly how satisfied your customers are, and highlight opportunities to innovate or improve. For example, if you are a telecoms provider, you might discover that your customers place a high value on a particular aspect of telecoms provision, but have a low satisfaction rating with the solutions currently on offer…which could point to a market opportunity to exploit.

Use research to ensure your customers stay happy

Once your product is launched, customer insight remains important. Use it to stay ahead of the game both on product quality and your customer service.

For example, when a Research Insight client asked its customers what they thought of its product, it discovered that orders were consistently arriving late. It turned out that delivery times promised by the sales department were not checked with, and could not be met by, their production department. The problem was solved by getting the two departments to work together more closely. Now they offer achievable lead times, which has resulted in higher customer satisfaction.

Whatever you do, and no matter when or how you do your research, keep an open mind and act on what you discover. Your customers will thank you!

Tips for gaining customer insight

Whether you’re running a large customer research project, doing a simple in-house phone survey, or looking for low-cost ways of understanding customer needs, try these tips:

  • Make it obvious from your tone and the phrases you use that you really want to know what your customers think. Don’t be defensive, even if your customers’ views are negative. The first step towards solving a problem is to understand it fully.
  • When your Customer Service team follow up a sale, get them to ask about a) what you’ve done well and b) what you should have done better. This will generate a valuable list of things you need to improve, and your customers will really appreciate your asking.
  • At the same time, ask customers to score satisfaction and likelihood to recommend, so you can track performance and improvement over time.
  • Encourage complaints, and make it easy to complain! Complaints are a rich source of improvement ideas… but only when listened to, and acted upon. Satisfied complainants usually become long-term loyal customers.


Business Link offer lots of useful information on doing market research, including the benefits of finding out more about your customers.

The Market Research Society has published a helpful book on this topic, Consumer Insight is part of their ‘Market Research in Practice’ series.

For a broader read about understanding customer relationships, take a look at Managing the Customer Experience.