Building Business Relationships

Are you struggling to create and keep profitable customers? Columns for Sales and Marketing Management who wants to build business relationships.
Friday, October 31, 2003

Involve employees for more complete product design

Whether you offer a hard product or service, just listening to the customers desires isn't going to produce a profitable product. Often customers want things that aren't practical to produce, it will take creative ingenuity to provide what customers want while keeping costs low enough to be profitable. Involve your employees in product development (especially those close to the product) and you can increase internal buy-in while gaining a commitment to quality that customers will notice.

At the point you incorporate customer feedback into product improvements, consider suggestions from your staff, applying appropriate weight to each. Since your people should be experts in the solutions the product affords, give at least as much consideration to their ideas as you would for your better customers. Employees often have improvement wish lists that would make implementation faster, production less expensive, or even make the product more desirable to customers.

Your product (re)design team must consult someone from sales, marketing, production, support, and engineering. While each of these groups have other unique values to contribute in the product development process, they especially contribute in the following ways:

Traditionally these groups may have issues with each other, avoid the common mistake of letting these groups fight over details. Consider non-confrontational ways of evaluating the product design including viewing the product in a homogeneous group, written or survey based feedback, meetings of representatives only, informal idea sharing environments, or using a moderator to focus discussions. Don't let poor internal relationships hinder progress in the product design process.

Another common mistake is saying, "This won't work for us, we provide a service."  Remember, services are products too, if they weren't how could you describe the process of implementation required to replicate your efforts. If you can't package your services into quantifiable products, then you're probably making other mistakes causing you to waste money.

Use this design time to improve business process. Getting these groups together at product design is a great time to iron out inter-relationship communications issues that often arise. If there are any logistical problems related to the production and delivery of the new (or improved) product, then while each group is together, it is best to address these issues throughly.

Go beyond customer feedback when improving your products by involving your employees, and you'll produce profitable products your customers will buy. Encourage dynamic feedback from every part of your organization that interacts with your customers or products, you'll reduce costs and increase product value. Where will you start today?

Justin Hitt helps executives build profitable relationships with customer, employees, and strategic partners. He can be reached by phone at +1 (877) 207-3798 or on-line at

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Last update: 04/08/2004; 2:37:39 PM.

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