Don’t Listen to Customers — Observe Them

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Every business wants to know what influences their customers. So, they should just ask them, right? Not so fast. There’s a fundamental problem with asking people what will persuade them to change: Most of the time they won’t know the answer. It’s not that they won’t give one. They’ll give you plenty. But those answers are likely to be wrong. Asking someone to pinpoint what will influence them in the future is a bit like saying, “Tell me how you will behave when you are not thinking about what I have just asked you about.” Instead of listening to your customers, watch them. Set up small field tests and controlled studies that observe what they actually do. In most instances, these experiments will be lot cheaper than traditional market research, and the insights will be much more revealing.

Adapted from “Stop Listening to Your Customers” by Steve Martin.

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