Idea mining: listen to your customers

Found the CEO of coinbase on Twitter today, answering customer support calls:

This was reinforced  by Fred Wilson.

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He called this simple exercise a ‘game changer’. I have heard the same from senior managers at Vodafone – who would shave in the morning with their headphones playing recordings of Customer Service calls.

This is more than just a good idea to solve problems which hurt your customers today. Listening to your customers – literally listening to their voice – gives you new, original ideas. It engages you in ways others means (surveys, market reports) do not. That visceral feeling of connection engages your instinct – the source of transformative insights.

I back this up from experience.

Designer researchers need to transcribe customer interviews for analysis. Initially, it felt like pure drudgery. I had to sit down to write out 30-60 min long interviews which would run into more than 4,000 words. Since I was doing an academic project, I decided it would be best to go by the book. And while doing them, I actually found them enjoyable.

I listened to recordings of more than 18 people (11 customers) and transcribed them. At one point, I started sketching ideas for a product which would be useful for them. It was the surreal and exhilarating experience of your subconscious mind giving ideas to you, versus you trying to think. The voices of the customers were now voices in my head. This phenomenon certainly would not have happened had I not talked and listened to them, if I had only read reports or surveys or generally logically worked out what the customer wanted.

This also fits into the post on the best ideas being out there. The best ideas (or at least the drivers of best ideas) are in your customer’s minds.

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