A Cure for We-know-it-itis

When is the last time you asked your customers:  How are we doing?

I’m thinking about the “voice of the customer” because I just received my latest newspaper survey, which seems to come about once a year.

The local paper boils its customer tracking down to six questions.

Click on image to Enlarge

While you may be tempted to dismiss the simplicity of the paper’s research focus, it’s clear they have prioritized what they want to know, and the questions have been structured to facilitate immediate customer service reinforcement or improvement.  Depending on the responses to the open-ended questions, they may get some bonus learning.

You may remember the old saying “the truth hurts,” which is sometimes the case.  Learn to embrace and use the truth to your advantage.  When it comes to operating your business and maximizing performance, relying on limited, assumption-based rather than fact-based knowledge has the potential to lead the organization astray (think the emperor with no clothes).  Regardless of your business, getting feedback and input from whomever buys and uses your products and services is vital.

One of the most debilitating phenomena in business is not embracing an “outside-in” mindset and succumbing to a bad case of  “we-know-it-itis.”  Yes, you do and should know a great deal about your business, and experience does count.  Make sure it stays that way by getting the scoop directly from your customers or consumers.  When I was a management consultant, we would, as part of our upfront work, interview and/or survey employees and customers.  By design, we always interviewed the most senior executives last.   Invariably, at some point during our conversations with these company leaders, we challenged ingrained and incorrect points-of-view with fact-based “voice of the employee” and “voice of the customer” data.

Your customer understanding and tracking initiative may be a bit more involved than the local newspaper, but, depending on your operation, it may not be!  As is often the case in marketing, there’s no substitute for thorough front-end thinking.  Make sure you and your extended team take the time to formulate the key information you need and prepare a written brief to guide your internal or research agency effort.  Based on my experience, I recommend you include at least the following sections in your brief:

  • Reason for the brief (why you need the research and how it will be used)
  • Research objectives and desired learning
  • Research targets
  • Geographic scope
  • Execution guidance and comments
  • Timing
  • Budget
  • Presentation format
  • Appendix for reference information/data

Headline For Marketers:  Ed Koch, the famous New York City Mayor, became renowned for going around the city asking people:  How’m I doing?  It’s a great lesson for the rest of us too.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.


3 thoughts on “A Cure for We-know-it-itis

  1. The questionnaire shown as an example of customer satisfaction research may categorized as a “quick and dirty” type of research which is okay to use for quick and inexpensive way of retrieving customer data.
    There are more thorough and exhaustive types of research which have been in use as late as the nineties. I speak of EQ, a proprietary technique of ACNielsen. Since I have been out of the loop for eight years now I am not sure how much enhancements have been introduced to it or whether they have come with a new one altogether.


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