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Lessons from Leno?

We’ve all had those “duh” moments in our life that we aren’t necessarily proud of. You know – those situations where someone asks you a seemingly easy question that you swear you know the answer to. You search your brain and….nothing. Blank. Or, better yet, you blurt out something that sends the room into explosive laughter. Oh yes, we’ve all been there.

Jay Leno makes a point of exploiting unexpecting citizens on the sidewalks of U.S. cities in the segment of his show called Jaywalking. By simply asking questions that we would think anyone could answer, he finds many people who after being interviewed will never live down the public embarrassment. He may even ask something like, “Who was the first president?” Even this simple question can often be met with blank stares. Unbelievable, right? You would never be caught in a situation like that, right?

Perhaps when it comes to customer listening we can often be a bit too presumptuous about what we know. It’s not uncommon for our sales and account teams to say that they don’t need to gather feedback because they already know everything there is to know about their customers. While to some extent this can be true, often we find that what they think they know is not aligned with what customers actually say. Or, at best, it is only part of story.

We need to encourage our account teams to really use unbiased customer feedback in addition to what they already know. The combination of both perspectives can be quite powerful, particularly when the customer feedback is used as a radar on internal metrics and performance. Tracking actual performance on metrics relative to perceived performance on those metrics can provide direction on where you should actually focus. Determine what the “breaking point” is in the eyes of the customer and use that as your indicator for the performance level you should be achieving.

It pays off to truly listen to customers – ask for their feedback, really understand what they are saying in comparison to what you already know, and then act. Don’t get stuck thinking you know your customers and then scrambling to explain why their sales are declining or even worse why you have lost their business. You may just end up in a bind like one of Leno’s Jaywalkers!

Katie Kiernan
Senior Account Analyst


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Walker Weekly

Walker is a consulting firm specializing in customer experience. Helping businesses for more than 75 years, Walker’s diverse team of consultants provides tailored, comprehensive solutions to help companies achieve their business objectives and grow shareholder value. Walker specializes in customer retention and growth, using predictive analytics and other innovative approaches. Walker works with some of the world’s most influential businesses as well as emerging organizations of all sizes. For more information, please visit

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0 thoughts on “Lessons from Leno?

  1. This post reminds me of a parable from the world of workflow consulting:

    First, we thought we were smart enough to decide how people should work, so we gave them systems, procedures and policies.

    But that created frustration, dissent and chaos. So next, we decided that we were understanding enough to ask people what they wanted and what they believed—-and we used that information to build new systems.

    But this created more bureaucracy, infighting and inefficiency. So next, we decided to *watch people at work* to see what they were *actually* doing.

    By combining what we *knew* about workflow management, what stakeholders *believe* about their jobs and the evidence of *how* they actually achieve tasks, we are able to provide a great benefit. None of these approaches, however, work well alone. We need to understand the gap between what we believe, what others believe, and the data itself!


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