Use Research, Make Smart Decisions

Trying to figure out why your customers are unhappy? Try talking to them directly.

Trying to figure out why your customers are unhappy? Try talking to them directly.

Quality research can reveal problem areas in your operations, as well as provide clues on how to fix them. Research also can point out what your customers like about your operation.

Seeing the good, the bad and the blah becomes an invaluable decision-making tool. You know what needs improvement, what is going well and what is just sort of meh. You have a basis to make smart decisions with confidence.

Customer satisfaction research or authentic engagement with a web-based panel of your customers can yield insights that might reinforce what you already know or totally surprise you. Either way, you aren't operating in the dark. Your customers shine the light.

Organizations can convince themselves of a problem area, but without solid data, they are simply guessing. Blame lagging sales on your sales reps, only to discover your customers love the sales reps, but don't like erratic delivery of your products. Instead of shaping up the sales force, you should be taking a hard look at your fulfillment department.

In a marketplace full of choices, it is smart business to know what your customers think of your business. For all the nest efforts to brand yourself, in the end customers determine your brand, so it's better to find out from them sooner than later.

Many leaders resist research because somewhere deep down they don't want to know what's wrong. If they don't know, they don't have to undertake the hard work to fix it, which can mean anything from personnel moves to culture change. But it is getting increasingly tricky to skate by problems, which can be an iPhone image away from going viral.

This kind of research comports nicely with the emerging trend of customer relationship management. It is hard to have a relationship if you never talk to your customer. Asking questions, in formal research or informal contacts, can be an excellent way to build those relationships.

You wouldn't make a financial decision without looking at business numbers, so why make decisions about your operation without checking in with your customers? At times, checking in with customers can be a humbling experience. But better a little humiliation than a disastrous decision.

Make smart decisions by soliciting and acting on advice from your customers, who in many ways are the business partner in your enterprise that really counts.