Master of Disguise – Texas Roadhouse CEO Goes Incognito for External Learning

“It’s important that I not be recognized when scouting. I have Bubba teeth to dive to another level. The goofier you are, the more folks don’t care about telling you stuff.”  Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse CEO

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Getting closer to your business operations, employees and even competitors doesn’t require a trip to your local pop-up costume store.  Save that for this year’s Halloween shopping.

Kent Taylor, the founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse provides a funny reminder that business leaders need to avoid the ivory tower syndrome and get out into the market for real learning. Continue reading

Ask Your Customer – Part 3 of a Continuing Series

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how you’re doing.

The alternative is that maybe one day you won’t have the same number of customers to ask.

I’ve written about the importance of customer learning and market research before, including posts titled A Cure for We-know-it-itis and Ask Your Customer.

ShopRite SurveyMy latest “Ask Your Customer” example comes from the retail grocery industry.

ShopRite is a leading northeast supermarket retailer with 250 stores in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.  It’s the primary consumer brand for Wakefern Corporation, “the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States,” per the company.

Wakefern has a sophisticated marketing and merchandising operation.

At the same time, they deploy this simple customer learning tool (picked-up in a NJ store):

Dear ShopRite

I especially like the following two questions because (1) it’s about time good people get credit; and (2) it’s an opportunity to learn something about the product assortment selection: Continue reading

Ask Your Customer

How do you know what your customer really thinks?

Customer understanding and market research should be key components of your strategic marketing planning.  This is often a significant expenditure, but you don’t always have to invest big bucks to understand your customer.  When possible, take advantage of low-cost, easy-to-implement options such as the following example from Amazon.  Continue reading

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.