Where Surveys & Focus Groups Fall Short

"We need that North Star," a client told us recently. "We need our customers to guide us." 

It's a scenario we see often, where a company has become so focused on what they can do for their customers that they've lost sight of what they should do. A change agent recognizes the need to verify the course of the ship, looks to the sky and discovers the stars that guide them are now too faint to follow.

Time to reconnect with the reason why your company is in business in the first place: your customers. Time to align your roadmap with their endgame, getting that North Star back into view and adjusting your course. 

But how should you engage your customers? You'll need a meaningful connection with them to solve this challenge, so which path should you take? There are a number of research methods with which to engage customers, and it's important to understand the value and shortcomings of each as they pertain to reacquiring that North Star. 

In our view, the options boil down to whether you need to generate customer insights or validate them (above graphic). In this case the insights are largely an unknown, so we need to generate them; to deeply understand what customers' lives are like today and what they want most from the their experience tomorrow. 

While surveys and focus groups have their relevant place in the insights process, the North Star scenario is where they fall short. Surveys conducted at this stage can leave stakeholders longing for specifics and 'the why' behind the responses. Focus groups can simply lose their focus because stakeholders haven't yet immersed themselves in the customer's world. Whereas ethnography and in-depth interviews can provide an authentic, insider's view into the specific details and emotional content leaders and implementation teams need in order to right the ship.