From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

Customer Directed Quality

In the last lesson, you learned how to accelerate relationship growth without sacrificing quality, because business relationships don't happen magically.

Are you hanging on to empty promises of instant results or are you now taking action to create profitable business relationships? If you're a loyal reader, you're taking action!

Today learn how what customer's value can improve product quality, including three factors that can revive a failing product (promised in the last lesson. ) But, it takes action and understanding to build profitable relationships in business.

Gather around the leaders of your company for the next lesson to learn about your responsibility as a relationship-building executive. Even if you're not an executive today, the next lesson will share useful insights to help you get there.


Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

Ps. Are you being served? (Shameless Plug) Are you a business to business technology and professional services firm that wants to create and keep profitable customers? Learn more at

How What Customers Value Improves Product Quality

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

The opinions of customers are worth money in the bank but too few companies know how to cultivate these insights . Even worse, some companies have fallen in love with their own products instead of their customers.

Do customers value your products? If they do, then they are more responsive to surveys and requests for feedback, more loyal, and more likely to refer your solutions to others.

Feedback helps improve product quality, but the most exciting part of this finding is that customers buy what they value . What do you do with the feedback you receive?

Incorporate feedback into measured product improvements. "Measured," means you consider each improvement against (a) will it cause more customers to buy, (b) does it improve a customer's perception of value, and (c) will it increase margins within the targeted customer segment.

Expand your dialog with customers to include their desired results , product usage, and known defects. Use standard methods to survey customers, capture feedback through sales and marketing channels, but if you want superior results, you'll have to go a step further.

Achieve superior results when you get customer measures of value from those who most understand them . What three factors can help your refresh fading products or invent new ones customers can't wait to purchase?

  1. The community's active around your solutions. Communities provide self-help resources, a platform for innovation, and competition to accessorize solutions for particular applications. Watch for those hidden workarounds members share with each other, monitor conversations for new ideas and applications only users can discover.
  2. Number of feedback loops within clusters of profitable customers. Your most profitable customers know things about what they want in a solution or about the results; they desire that you can't get in a survey. Check up on your best customers regularly, observe their results, and ask questions that help them reach their objectives faster.
  3. A products life cycle according to how a customer really uses it. It's more important to understand how a customer really uses your product rather than how you meant it to be used. For complex solutions, customers often change requirements half way through implementation. Find out why these changes are important and consider them in future versions of your solution.

Don't leave to chance bringing customers together in an easy to monitor environment. Because engineers want to talk with engineers, and accountants with accountants, don't send your sales people into these communities to prospect . Instead, give your "customer peers" tools that help them communicate to build relationships.

If you really want sales and marketing to be involved in improving product quality through customer interactions then encourage them to spend 90% of their time listening. Just ask questions and keep their mouth shut.

You'll get powerful feedback when customers feel they own the conversation , rather than you just pushing the benefits of existing products. This exercise is about improving product quality, establishing rapport, and understanding customers; not selling!

How do you take these insights and turn them into products customers will demand? It's easier than you think and you'll find 17 strategies in "How to Provide Products Your Customers Desire" (Inside Strategic Relations; November 1, 2003). You'll even find a way to generate revenue while testing new designs.

Customers want to tell you all about their problems , but too often companies don't listen and start talking only of their solutions. A company who builds strong customer relationships helps customers own results by tailoring products to serve their particular needs. Are your customers helping you create new and better products?

© Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ customer-relations | product-development /

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