Acquiring & Leveraging Customer Insight: Taking A Page from Dell and Starbucks

light-bulb-with-money.jpgKnowing what your customers think is absolutely critical when growing your business.
It’s easy to make products and see what sells – but this is a bone headed way of doing things and is a solution for disaster. Eventually inventory will pileup, you’ll lose money and just maybe go out of business. Beyond product sales, it’s also important to gain insight from customers for the overall strength of your business.
For example, listening to customers and enabling them to submit ideas for new products, new ways of using existing products, market intelligence, things they find from competitors that you might consider selling – these are all vital ideas that you want to hear from customers.
What’s you need is a system that invites your target audience (customers, or others) to input ideas, have others rate those ideas and respond. In this way, you are getting more than just a static question and answer, as you would from a survey, but are growing an in-house idea factory.

One of these such tools is Ideascale which is a free (for now of course) and new community-based portal that enables companies of all sizes to harness the “wisdom of crowds” on their own website to improve their product or service.
“In the competitive world of hospitality lodging, it’s not just enough to simply solicit customer feedback — there needs to be a mechanism to turn that feedback into real business intelligence that can be quickly incorporated into our various properties,” said John Thompson, Director of Hotel Performance Training for Choice Hotels.
I put together an Ideascale site for at Check out my idea here and contribute!
Surveys are quite useful and provide information that your customers (or anyone) can answer. Survey Monkey is one example of an easy to use and feature rich survey tool. Constant Contact has a new survey tool as well.
In addition to surveys, I think idea portals will enable you to get a mix of a static survey and dynamic blog. Enabling your customers (or employees, partners – whoever) to give information to you, share the information with each other and have others comment on and “rate” that information as well.
Being a company that LISTENS, HAS IDEAS and great EXECUTION means, over time, more sales, happier customers and better employees.
Media Critic Jeff Jarvis writes about what Starbucks is doing here, search his blog for other comments on Dell’s Ideastorm.