Talking Directly with Customers

Communication among the various levels of management as well as with customers is crucial for the success of an organization
Management by walking around (MBWA) is the most appropriate way to ensure that the customer’s voice is built into products and processes. Advisory committees of opinion leaders can be an effective method of keeping one’s finger on the pulse of public opinion. Focus group interviews enable customers to explore ideas with skilled facilitators, trained to go below the surface of suggestions and complaints. Tapping Customer Creativity is a tool to help negotiate new products with customers. It is the kind of process that reinvents the future. For instance, customers were not even aware of the possibility of a Walkman. Only an intense negotiation between top management, manufacturing and customers could have created it. Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) regularly involves shop floor workers, marketing executives and customers in an annual process of negotiating the future.

Internally, productivity depends on performance feedback, as does innovation. There is no incentive to think outside the box when no one listens or cares. Positive affirmation is the key to ensuring that people stretch to think creatively: 360 degree feedback provides young innovators opportunity to give their bosses feedback on a less than conducive environment. A system to clearly map individual competencies and provide consistent timely feedback can result in providing appropriate training when required.