Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You Asking the Right Questions?


When I speak with business executives, conversations frequently turn to discussion of topics such as how to increase sales, drive revenue growth, increase client retention, and other measures of performance.

From my observation, my view is that these metrics and related conversations tend to be more inwardly focused. My sense is that to truly succeed and build lasting success, one needs to shift the focus 180 degrees and it is through this opposing route that we will achieve desired business performance.

When I think of customers I think of them as individuals, who are in the end striving to be happy. Reason for this way of thinking is when I think of a group, it feels somewhat generic, distant. But when I think of a single customer, let's call her Suzie, then I begin to see her differently, not just as a customer but more as a real person, a real living breathing human being, and this makes all the difference for me how I view then our collective customers, for they are ultimately a collection of individuals.

Therefore, I believe what we need to be instead asking questions such as how can we be more effective in getting answers to following types of questions:

1. What makes our customers happy?
2. What are their dreams? What do they want to be, do, have, achieve, create?
3. What truly matters to them?
4. How do they fill in: I will be happy, if/when______________?
5. What energizes them? Drains them?
6. What are they attracted to? What do they repel?

Then as we become more effective in gaining such crucial insights, then the questions become, such as:

1. How can be (re)structure our organizations to more effectively help our customers ultimately lead happier lives (through our offerings)?
2. What new programs and offerings do we need to create?
3. Of the current offerings, which ones do we need to dissolve, refine, further strengthen?
4. What will be our delivery mechanism?

All this of course within the context of our organizational visions, missions and core values. I realize the responses to first set of questions while will vary from customer to customer, perhaps major themes & patterns will emerge. Then as we become better at gaining such deep insights, the more effective we will become at taking our organizations to the next level.

Furthermore, if we can develop solutions that even more so help our customers acquire ultimately what they want deep within, perhaps they'll be willing to pay even more for our offerings.

I am not implying these are the absolute right questions. Rather these are just to get the thoughts flowing and to help see our routes to success from a different perspective.

It is said that framing the situation correctly and asking the right questions is a very important step to getting the right answers. Assume for the moment that anything is possible, that you have a blank slate and can redesign your organization anyway you like, what do you believe are the right questions we need to be asking, to not only survive today but to also thrive into the future?

Thoughts?

2 comments:

Jane said...

I just read this post as we are crafting questions our board of directors will be asking members in an effort to build a stronger relationship with them/ultimately the organization. Our profession is in deep shock due to the changes being forced upon them. I support what you are saying and wondering if you have tried these questions and if they really "work" at getting ideas, feedback, etc. from members/customers.

Vinay Kumar said...

Hi Jane,

Thanks for writing. In my experience, in having had numerous such conversations, these types of questions do work. They are great at starting the conversations and then leading to getting at the heart of what's important to members.

In fact, as you posted your comment, I am sitting here reflecting on this further and as I do that, add'l questions are coming to mind for ass'ns to consider.

If you're on ASAE's membership listserve, you'll see a post from me in the near future on this. If you're not, send me your email address and I'll be happy to forward that to you.

Having said all this, I am happy to discuss specifics of your situation and then help you craft questions that will help you and your organization specifically. If this would help, let me know and I'll be happy to make some time for you. Thanks.

Vinay