Frontline Research

Some of the best insight into your customers can come from your frontline workers. But you have to ask.Bosses love to bring in experts, but sometimes the best experts are working on the front lines of your own business.

There is nothing wrong with tapping outside expertise. But it isn't a substitute for getting the gritty reality that employees can provide from their experience dealing directly with your customers.

From the corner office, you may conclude you have a sales force problem. You drag in an expert to agree with you. But why not ask your customers what they think. You may discover they love their sales rep, but can't get your product delivered on time — a very different problem with a very different solution.

Usually for the price you pay an outside expert, you can undertake some basic research to get to the bottom of your problems. It could take the form of one-on-one interviews or a customer satisfaction survey. Maybe, you could call some of your best customers and ask for their candid personal assessment.

The easiest and most reliable research technique — and often the cheapest — is to check in regularly with the men and women on your team who deal directly with your customers. These are the people whose views will come closest to reflecting the views of customers. Listen to them and encourage them to share with you what they know.