Averages are for assholes: five ways to learn what your customers are really thinking

Peter Zafiris outlines five ways to leverage customer feedback to improve your brand.

Have you ever wondered why a product or service has proven to be successful and valued by the customers and markets you serve? And on the other hand, a different product or service is treated like a commodity and failing to sell or make you any profit?

The answers lie with your customers. Their feedback is critical to improving your brand, products and services. Here are five ways to leverage customer feedback to improve your brand.


1. Forget satisfaction surveys and net promoter scores

As one of my first managers once told me: ‘Averages are for assholes’. If you really want to know ‘why’, then ask and you will learn more. The power of engaging and asking open-ended questions will set you free. This can be easily achieved formally or informally. A conversation is what counts to uncover the real truths of your brand, products and services.

I recently ran a focus group for an industrial client. The feedback and insights drawn were so powerful. Powerful enough to receive approval to launch a new product and invest heavily in a new market. Allow customer feedback to dictate your marketing.

Related: Don Peppers on why the customer is the biggest disruptor of all »

2. Get out of the office

I don’t care whether you are the vice president of brand, the chief marketing officer, the marketing coordinator or the CEO of your business. Get out into the market. Visit your customers. Ask questions and walk the floor with them. Don’t sit there, trying to develop a strategy and then cutting costs.

Get out into the real world with your best resources and add value. Become valuable to your customers by engaging, challenging and making decisions to improve your business.

3. Every touch point creates an opportunity

From the receptionist to the machine operator. Every touch point made with your customer must be considered as an opportunity to receive feedback to improve your brand. Enable your customers to convey their thoughts in the moment. Make it extremely easy to make contact and remind customers they can do so. I recently discouraged one of my clients to move to an automated phone service. ‘Press one for this’, and ‘press two for that’. People want to speak to people.

Encourage your customers to save your number, and other key contacts from your business to their phones. It’s instantly available when a thought enters their mind. All they have to do is call or text. Don’t build complexity, thinking you’re being clever and efficient.

4. Follow through

Customers will stop providing feedback if they feel ignored or lied to. Ensuring you take some action and communicate this back to them quickly. Knowing they’ve had an impact on your brand, product or service makes them more invested. You build a relationship by improving your business.

5. Hit hard

Don’t allow mediocrity get in the way. It’s easy to accept failure. Discontinue a failed product. And cut a service offer. It’s much harder to improve, change and innovate. A bit like exercise, you don’t want to do it. You know it will hurt. But once it’s done, you feel amazing. You feel alive!

Customer feedback can be scary and upsetting. It can also be rewarding. When done right, you’ll get many opinions and ideas, and they will often conflict with each other. Resist the urge to make changes instantly and give every single customer what they want.

Step back, filter the information, examine and prioritise.

According to Kevin Roberts, chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the world’s leading creative agencies: “You must listen to the market, listen to the voice of the customer. That’s the fundamental essence of marketing. We really cannot determine anything. The customer does that. That is the essence.” Have a read of hsis book, Lovemarks. It’s a unique book on brand power.

Stay true to your brand. At the end of the day, it’s your customers who decide how successful you will become. How profitable you are and how recognised your brand is. It’s not what ‘you’ say about your business, it’s what ‘they’ say. This will make the difference between being market driven or customer led. I know which I’d prefer if I had a choice!


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Peter Zafiris
BY Peter Zafiris ON 17 June 2016
Peter Zafiris is an industrial marketer and founder of Industrial Ideas, a full-service marketing agency dedicated to industrials. Peter has built his experience in industrial marketing from the ground up. Breaking through red tape, getting the non-believers on side and silencing the critics is what Peter does best. You can email him at Peter@IndustrialIdeas.com.au.