I’ve been buying products in retail stores now for…well, many decades. In all of that time I’ve yet to have a store manager approach me and ask either “Why did you buy that product” or “Why did you put that product back and not buy it?”. Yet the real-time, trending, store-level data that manager could gather by asking that question a half-dozen times a day could tell him or her tons of valuable, actionable information that can be got no other way. I, for one, could frequently tell the manager why he/she lost a sale or what they are doing right and should do more of.
Yet no doubt their corporate HQ hires “secret shoppers” and the like to gather stale, unactionable data that’s better, more cheaply gathered in real-time by the employees on the floor. As Mitch says, “Its amazing the lengths that management will go to to avoid talking to a real, live customer.” Like the CIA, corporate management seems to have an aversion to on-the-ground, real, live Human Intelligence, and prefers to get their data from sterile third-party analysis.
Along the same lines, we have always been a huge fan of forensic sales analysis, in which you free-form talk to, not survey, customers who bought, didn’t buy, and who bought but have stopped buying. In fact, this is one of our most popular BtoB services, and the insights gained are always stunning and actionable.
While its valuable to have an outside firm perform this service in an objective and structured way, it should also be part of the week-to-week job of senior management.