Customer surveys, satisfaction scores, net promoter … are all these tools as useful as they were a decade ago before the exponential rise of the educated customer via the internet?  Well, I am going to argue that they are. But, my argument is contextual.  A good part of the research that needs to be undertaken with any of these forms of customer surveying should be designed to additionally ascertain how much of the problem-solution-service provider homework the customers in the given industry/market/vertical undertake by themselves – typically before speaking to and inviting input from potential providers.
The more the customers undertake their own education, the more likely we are looking at mature markets with a mature product/service supply scenario.  In this case a good degree of confidence can be placed on the importance-performance-satisfaction scores coming through the customer surveys.  Consequently, the harder the supplier of the mature product/service has to work to find the piece that the customer missed in their research.  Which, if can be done and is credible, buys an unfair share of voice amongst competitor suppliers in the ears of the customer.  Which, in turn, enables that seller to position their product/service on offer to be able to meet that “missed” piece, better than any competitor offer.  Sounds easy and black/white?  Yes?
The “missed piece” could take on the manifestation akin to what Steve Jobs taught us………
  • When developing products/services that the customer will need in the future, don’t ask today’s customers.  They can usually only tell you about today’s problem-solution perceptions.

The “missed piece” could also take on the manifestation of what Adamson  taught us………..

  • Despite all the assiduous homework done by the customer, there will usually be some piece they got wrong or missed.  Again, therefore, the customers current knowledge level is likely to be imperfect and provide gap opportunities for leading suppliers.
My bottom line point … as  a supplier sales organisation, you have to ask today’s customers for the perceptions on how you are performing to be able to adapt and take advantage of alignment and improvement opportunities.  As per current customer knowledge.  In addition, once you have figured out the customer unknown, knowledge gap, or the thing they got wrong that you are going to go for, for competitive advantage, then you must disrupt or at least challenge the raision detre of the sales team, redesign accordingly … and then optimise.
Keep an eye out for our next post: Role playing – much maligned as a sales training mode.  Justifiably?