Thursday, September 9, 2010

Harnessing the Power of Self-Directed Teams (continued)

Installment 2: Customer Focus

For all winning suppliers, but especially for self-directed teams, customers come first. Every process, every decision, every brick on the road to success is paved with team members’ understanding of the needs and wants of their external and internal customers. Without direct feedback from customers, team members often struggle with decisions based on wobbly foundations, or waste time pondering customer satisfaction based merely on assumptions.

You say, “Of course I know what my customer needs and wants!” But when was the last time you asked your customer? Direct data can be powerful.

Survey your customers’ needs and wants (they are not necessarily the same) regularly and help your team define its goals accurately and deliver relevant solutions—or decide not to waste time courting a customer if the couple is a mismatch.

Surveys can be as elaborate as multiple-call-back phone interviews with open-ended questions or as simple as one-item feedback cards. (Close-ended questions can be answered yes or no.) Or surveys can be as varied as in-person focus groups and individualized web-based instruments or as uniform as paper-and-pencil scan forms.

• Telephone surveys with many call-backs often yield the most useful information because of the lowest likelihood of skewed data. Other survey methods, such as web-based or paper-and-pencil, typically under-represent some groups―such as very busy people―or over represent others, such as folks with time on their hands. Many telephone surveys also allow, or even encourage, participants to explain their responses or ask for clarification.

• Focus groups help draw information from participants, but the data they generate may suffer from contagious viewpoints. Focus group surveys often are impractical to administer to large groups of customers within a limited timeframe.

• Electronic surveys typically require a smaller budget to administer, and large quantities of data can be processed with greater accuracy. However, electronic survey results often are skewed according to the computer literacy of the participants completing the survey.

• Paper-and-pencil instruments may be the better choice for customers who have limited access to technology.

Self-directed teams use the results generated by customer satisfaction surveys to reinforce current processes, or to realign or heal those that ail.

For best results, before you administer your next customer survey, conduct a pilot with just a few participants. Uncover and fix or replace any confusing, biased, or non-value-added instructions or questions.

Tune in next time to see how self-directed teams use goals and performance metrics to deliver superior results.

Featured Blogger Dr. Adrienne Escoe is President and Senior Consultant at Escoe Bliss Professional Resources whose varied background ranges from classroom teacher at all levels, including kindergarten through graduate school, to corporate multi-department manager, R&D laboratory senior editor, widely published author.


  1. This is such an important topic! I'm always surprised at how few businesses actively seek feedback from their customers. Those who do, and then take action to implement, correct or improve on what they've learned will build fiercely loyal customers, which will in turn set them up for great success. Those who don't will ultimately become irrelevant. Seems like a simply choice to me.

    Great Post!
    Larry Broughton

  2. Thanks, Larry. We could not agree with you more. Adrienne shared your views from your webinar a few weeks ago and we enjoyed many take-aways. We appreciate you sharing this blog post and others with those who you think may benefit.

    Our best,
    Manager of Consulting Solutions