To really know customers you must engage them face-to-face.
This is a handly little article reminding us all that data and "likes" can only take us so far. If we really want to know our customers to help guide for innovation, marketing, business relationships, and ultimately business growth, then face-to-face interactions are imperative.
OK -- now we've gotten that message, and we are in front of a customer, now what? How do you maximize your time together?
The practical answer is to ask for, and listen to, their stories! That is what this article does not say. Yet that is your path to success.
What stories do you ask for? Ask them to share with you their experiences of your product/service, your company, your marketing/branding, or whatever burning question you need an answer to.
Just remember, most people ask information questions where they get lots of description but little story. That's not so helpful. They will ask someone to describe what they like about their product. In return they will gets answers like, "I like the blue color, and how it fits in my hand." interesting, but not so helpful.
Ask for EXPIENCES instead: "Tell me about the first time you used our product and what that was like ..." In return, you will receive a story rich in material and meaning: "One day I was really struggling one day to open a jar. For some reason my arthritis was really bad that morning and I couldn't get the strength to open that jar. I didn't want to ask my daughter for help because i hate feeling dependent on someone just to open a jar! A friend had given me your handy opener as a gift but I hadn't even taken it out of its packaging yet. That morning I grabbed it but had a devil of a time getting it out of its plastic wrapping! I finally took a scissors to it, which means I probably have blunt scissors now [HINT for changing packaging]. But I finally got it opened and used it on that jar I was struggling with. Voila! It was so easy! I had that jar open in a jiffy. Your design made it very easy in my hands. I checked out your website to see if it came in other colors so I could give it as a gift to friends. Was kind of disappointed in the color selection but I'll make do. I'm sure they will appreciate its ease and cool design like I do."
You get the picture -- haven't customers share experiences is much more valuable. From the little story above you can now dig deeper into the story, or keep asking for later experiences.
Enjoy this process. Take your time -- no need to schedule 20 interviews to aquire tons of material. A handful will do to get you started. Remember you are going for quality, not quantity. You will learn as you go and interviews down the line will be richer and more complex because you will have gotten better at evoking stories from your customers.
I would love to hear about your experiences doing this activity!
This review was written by Karen Dietz for her curated content on business storytelling at www.scoop.it/t/just-story-it