When you observe and interact directly with your customer, you get much richer information than with a simple survey. It’s true that this requires more effort on your part, but it is ultimately a much more effective way of gathering data and will help you reach real innovation. Companies who choose efficiency over effectiveness are making seven basic mistakes:

  1. They are simply not interested in their customer’s voice. They don’t ask customers anything at all and they make their decisions in a bubble. This “strategy” is clearly not effective, as it often leads to developers “solving” problems no one has or working on a problem without realizing which solutions will be rejected by the customers.
  2. They use surveys exclusively. The problem with surveys is that they are hard to get right: sound surveys and survey processes are the basis for gathering useful conclusions. Surveys often provide data points without giving you actual facts. Without facts, how can you innovate successfully?
  3. Their surveys provide a false sense of security. By asking customers only whether they like the products, companies are lulled into the false sense that they have loyal customers who will remain loyal no matter what. But customer loyalty is a fickle thing; customers go where the best products are and will quickly forget about any company which doesn’t innovate and isn’t cutting-edge. Single-question surveys can be effective, but only if the question asked is “What can we do better that would improve your experience?”
  4. They survey too much. Some companies think they will get accurate data by asking survey questions with every interaction the customer has with the business. However, too many surveys is likely to lead to customers answering based on their tolerance level for being asked the same questions multiple times. And of course, the customer experience is eroded by these extraneous survey requests. Customers may start to feel cynical about the surveys and cease to believe that their opinions really matter.
  5. They influence the results (intentionally or accidentally). Surveys often come with an added hint that the company expects positive results. For instance, they may say, “We hope you enjoyed this product. Please let us know how much by answering these questions.” If the customer is told to give positive feedback, the results will be far from objective. Timing surveys to coincide with positive experiences is another way in which surveys are skewed and inaccurate results are encouraged.
  6. They don’t visit the customers in their own environments. As much as you can learn from surveys, you can learn a lot more from seeing how your customers interact with your product and talking to them while they are doing it. Surveys cannot provide qualitative data in the way that Voice of Customer analysis can.
  7. They draw the wrong conclusions. In order to be effective, companies must really listen to each individual customer and record his personal story. Only when customers are really listened to, can qualitative data be properly analyzed and accurate conclusions reached. Paying attention to what customers are saying is obviously more time-consuming than sending out surveys.The effectiveness of the Voice of Customer analysis clearly trumps the efficiency of surveys.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.