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Insights from customers in their own words – five methods, four tips

There's nothing like hearing a customer thoughts and opinions in their own words. I believe that's why we've seen an uptick in the use of qualitative methods to gather customer insights. I participate in a local group of CX professionals that meets once a month for breakfast and conversation. Our recent gathering focused on this topic and generated lots of lively discussion. Five key methods emerged:

  1. Customer advisory boards – Recruiting customers to provide ongoing feedback and participate in group sessions can generate excellent advice and improvements. Careful planning to recruit the right group of customers and structuring the sessions to focus on a few primary issues were mentioned as important best practices. 
  2. Focus groups – A slightly different structure, focus groups can be conducted with a variety of small groups to obtain a well rounded collection of insights. Expertise in managing the discussion is important to ensure all opinions are heard and to prevent anyone from dominating the discussion. 
  3. Interviews – This technique is done one person at a time either over the phone or in person. While it is more time consuming it is a highly personal way to obtain terrific insights from various customers. 
  4. Experience sessions – This was suggested as a compliment to techniques such as journey mapping. These sessions are about charting the ideal experience. It leverages creativity and imagination to transform customer experiences. 
  5. VOCE – Voice of the customer through the employee is all about understanding the customer by asking the employees that work with them the most. Employees often are well aware of necessary improvements. All agreed – you need to have an effective way to not only encourage input, but also to put it to use.

Along with this discussion four important tips emerged:

  1. Start with your purpose – Consider what you're trying to achieve and begin with a solid hypothesis. 
  2. Select the right tool(s) – Start with customer data that already exists and consider combining several methods to garner the all the right intelligence.
  3. Be ready to act – All agreed, once input is gathered you need to be ready to put it to use. Quickly!
  4. Get back with participants – Follow up with everyone that took the time to share their thoughts and opinions. Thank them and let them know how you are putting their insights to use.

Patrick Gibbons


About the Author

Patrick Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons

As Principal and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Walker, Gibbons has global responsibility for definition, branding, and promotion of the company and its solutions. Gibbons has published and/or contributed to a number of articles, papers, and blogs on customer intelligence topics and has a regular column in CRM Magazine. He has been a featured speaker at a wide range of conferences, and has produced a series of educational events for customer experience leaders.

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