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Sunday, December 09, 2007

About showerheads and observing

The Moen Revolution Showerhead -- an example of success through observing things first-hand.

Some weeks ago, Sonny Lykos kindly sent me the book: Customer Loyalty Guaranteed: Create, Lead, and Sustain Remarkable Customer Service by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson. I've been making my way through the book's important themes -- it really is an easy-to-read volume, but I'm savoring it through a slower-than-usual reading process.

Tonight, however, something caught my eyes which is relevant, and that is one of the book's seven rules for harnessing intelligence, specifically, "Listening to customers is good, watching customer behaviour is even better."

The authors go on to note:

"Customer behavior is often more telling than the customer's words. Continuum, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm, found that out when hired to conduct market research for Moen, Inc., for use in the development of a new line of showerheads. Continuum felt the best way to discover what customers wanted in a new showerhead wasn't to ask them by surveys but rather to watch them in action. According to the New York Times, the company got permission to film customers taking showers in their own homes and used the findings in the new design. Among the insights gleaned were that people spent half their time in the shower with their eyes closed and 30 per cent of their time avoiding water altogether. The data contributed to the new Moen Revolution showerhead becoming a best seller."
I'm sure almost none of our businesses require us to set up cameras in people's showers, but there is an interesting point here -- we cannot gather insights into what our clients really want without getting close to their real world, and real perspectives. I'm wondering, for example, if someone setting up a "lunch and learn" event at an architect's office would gain some advantage by seeking permission to attend another manufacturers' representatives "lunch and learn" at the same architect's office, first. (Obviously, this will only work if the two reps are not direct competitors.)

While the visit as a respectful guest rather than leader will of course consume time, the observing role would give you two real advantages -- some insights into the character and nature of the audience you will be addressing later, and (perhaps more valuable) some insights into presentation practices and knowledge about the non-competing product line.

4 comments:

Mike said...

True on so many levels. About 60% of people say they wash their hands before leaving the bathroom. One movie theater rest room will show you how valid THAT is. (And for those who DO wash their hands, the instructions for those automatic hand dryers should end with "Wipe hands on pants.")

Not sure I'd be comfortable with an architect prospect inviting someone from another trade sitting in on my CM client's lunch-and-learn, however.

And as for someone putting a camera on me in the shower--I doubt it would help them design a new shower head, but it would certainly cure them once and for all of watching people in the shower!

Mark Buckshon said...

Thanks for these observations. It obviously may be extreme for us to get into people's showers (but certainly this makes sense if you make showerheads!) but when we are marketing AEC services, it certainly makes sense to connect with our prospective clients' mindspace. And I think this needs to be done outside of the rush to put proposals together -- and certainly beyond the standard canned presentation/approach used by so many in the business.

Brian said...

We are a CM firm and ironically enough, have worked with Chip Bell and John Patterson. There should not be any beating around the bush on this topic. Get right to the heart of what you are trying to get, information from the customer. There is nothing better than face to face dialog, not disguised with lunch and learns nor surveys. The hard part is asking the right questions and getting answers from someone who is willing to share. Our experience has been that if people know that you need their help and that you will act on their information, they will take the time a and will be honest. The next best approach is to get a third party to diffuse the tension that may exist from a customer that wants to speak his mind.

Mark Buckshon said...

Brian, I really appreciated this comment and agree that first-hand impressions and face-to-face communication are the best ways to gain insights. This comment, you will notice, is worthy of a separate posting later in the blog.