How to kill your business: know all the answers

Chimp not listeningRecently a conference speaker from a huge national company concluded their talk by saying:

“We surveyed our customers and not one of them had an original or useful idea about how to improve our service.That’s when we realised that we have far better experts in-house and shouldn’t rely on help from the outside.”

I was flabbergasted.

If when asking your customers you fail to uncover any meaningful ways to improve your offering you are either (1) perfect in every way or (2) dangerously deluded.

And, given the famously bad service provided by the conference speaker’s company, I think staying delusional probably features quite high on their mission statement.

Sure, the public don’t always know exactly what they want. As Henry Ford famously said, if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d have said “a faster horse”. But even a seemingly unhelpful answer like this would have told Henry that people wanted something to get them to where they wanted to be more speedily.

You are not your customer. You can never see your business through your customers eyes. But you must insist on continuously listening intently to all the clues they give while digging beneath the surface for the crucial insights they can bring forth.

As I fear my fellow conference speaker may soon learn, the day you are truly unable to learn anything new from listening to your customers is the day your business starts to die.