The customer is always right. The timeless aphorism holds truer now than it ever did before, as the customer truly drives the ever-changing trends and shapes the industry, with companies battling each other to stay relevant in the hearts and minds of their devoted audience.

While traditional market research has its place in the modern world, and while innovative tools have made probing deeper into the habits of your target demographic infinitely easier, there is simply nothing more valuable than hearing an honest opinion from a customer. Simply put, if you want to drive innovation, you need to talk to your customers. Here’s how to do it.

Gather feedback from the front lines

You can learn a lot about your company by listening to your customers, and who better to convey their wishes and opinions than your account managers and frontline salespeople? After all, the people coming into contact with your brand on a daily basis are the ones who will have the most practical and actionable suggestions you can use to create a thriving innovation community and the next amazing product people will love.

This is why you want to ensure a constant flow of feedback by instructing your frontline employees to engage with the customers and ask about their experience with your brand. The best part is that no matter how successful your company is, there is always room for improvement, and of course, there is always a customer with a great idea that will spark innovation.

Look for similarities in individual insights

Just like your opinion about how the last Avengers movie should have ended does not represent the opinion of every die-hard Marvel fan out there, neither does the opinion of a single customer represent the tendencies and trends of your entire demographic. This is to say that, although valuable, the opinions of your customers should undergo rigorous scrutiny involving critical thinking and careful strategizing.

You want to assess whether or not an opinion is prevalent among the clients or customers, and how product or service innovation based on this opinion would affect the entire demographic. This is where the problem of inconsistency and a lack of concrete data tends to occur, as you need a way to gather the relevant insights in a controlled environment where you can manage incoming information efficiently.

Provide a strong incentive for concrete data

This leads us to the point of incentives and gathering specific data which you can efficiently convert into actionable tactics to fuel your innovation strategy. To achieve this, you can give customers the opportunity to share their opinions about your brand by taking paid surveys online and getting a chance to earn money online in the process.

Gathering information on a daily basis is not difficult, but gathering quality and relevant information from a passionate and incentivized audience takes careful planning and meticulous execution. However, if you ask the right questions through the right channels, it can help you give wings to your innovation strategy.

Ask the right questions

Ask a confusing question, and you shall receive an equally confusing answer. What’s more, you need to keep in mind that not all feedback is helpful feedback, some of it is just noise, which is why you need to tailor your approach with relevant, simple, and transparent questions addressing the concrete pain points of your customers.

But you want to take it even further and dig out what the root of their problem. By gathering the information on why instead of what, your employees and decision makers can immediately start forming long-term solutions instead of just guessing what the best course of action really is.

Let your employees drive innovation

Finally, once you have obtained the necessary information, you need to turn these ideas into goals and concrete tasks. In order for this to happen without losing momentum, you want to support and motivate your employees for cross-sector cooperation and communication.

This means opening a direct line of communication between your sales representatives and your product development team in order to avoid wasting precious time, risk losing great ideas in the void of complex hierarchy, and actually work on introducing the solutions your customers truly need. This is why you need to empower your employees to drive innovation by tearing down the walls between customers and your product team.

Innovation is the key to long-term success in the modern world, as the ever-changing trends in the competitive market will leave only the forward-thinking brands standing. By opening the necessary channels of communication with your customers, you will have no problem fueling your growth strategy with actionable insights that will lead you down the path of long-term business success.

By Emma Miller

About the author

Emma Miller is a marketer and a writer from Sydney, working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University.

Featured image via Unsplash.