A CEO and I were debating whether amount of time spent with a customer is a measure of the quality of the customer interaction.
Just curious — do you see 23 touches for 5 mins the same as 23 touches for 1 hour each — I think it is different and material.
From my perspective, I need to allocate a certain number of hours per week with customers and believe that number in a normal week is likely 5 hours. I am not sure if that is right, but 5 hours out of 40 per se seems about right. To me, a 3-hour dinner with a customer will be very revealing.
Time matters… Speaks to quality, don’t you think?
His assumption here is that there’s no meaningful insight to be gained in a 5-minute conversation. He’s also arbitrarily picked 5 hours per week. (Why not 4? Or 2? Or 8?)
Here’s how we should think about it.
Why are we seeking VOC? What’s the purpose?
At the most fundamental level, in any situation, there are three kinds of customer insights we’re trying to gain:
- Problem Discovery
- Problem Hypothesis Testing
- Solution Hypothesis Testing
There are many techniques to accomplishing these. The specific ones we use depends on the situation.
For problem discovery, onsite customer visits or a series of 1-on-1 interviews are best. These take time. 45-60 minutes an interview across 10, 20, 50 customers, for example. An onsite visit takes time to schedule and could be 2 hours or 20 minutes depending on the customer’s availability and how deep one wants to immerse oneself into the customer’s world.
For hypothesis testing a broad problem domain, 1:1 interviews are often the best. So in this case, I’ll opt for 23 phone conversations of 30-60 mins each, because I know neither email nor a survey nor a 5-min phone conversation will provide me the richness of insight I need.
For solution hypothesis testing, it can vary.
If I’m validating a mockup of a potential solution the customer has never seen before, a 20-60 min interview may be needed.
In all the above situations, I want the richness of the fluidity of the conversation, have an opportunity to ask follow-up questions and feel the customer’s emotional responses.
But let’s say I’m trying to validate the need or usefulness of a specific feature — i.e., will it or does it solve a specific, previously identified customer problem.
In this case, using an email or an automated tool would enable 23 touches in 5 minutes, and work perfectly. I could do it via phone calls, which would have taken longer, but ultimately would have given me the same quality of insight.
Another example is having weekly meetings with the Sales team.
The meeting doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for a Product Manager to get on sales calls and demos. However, there’s great efficiency and value to these meetings, because in 30 mins I get buyer feedback across all our products from 9-10 folks who are making a large number of customer calls every day.
Which technique to use in any given situation depends on the type of VOC one is seeking, the purpose of seeking it, the ability to access the customer quickly, and the time available to seek and act on it. And in all cases reasonable judgment, of course.
With respect to allocating time for yourself to obtain VOC, that’s a different thing.
You’re a busy person, so it’s understandable you need to figure out how much time to allocate for VOC vs. other tasks.
But that’s solving your problem — i.e., your problem of time allocation.
It’s different than the how, what and why of obtaining the VOC itself.
And provides no guarantee of the quality of customer insight that you may gain.