What’s wrong with Customer Surveys?

On the surface surveying your guitar students would seem like a logical strategy. After all you want to know what your students like and don’t like so you can design your guitar course to fit their needs right? Well here is why I am not a fan of customer surveys and I would encourage you not to conduct them. 

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

Many of today’s most famous products and successful companies would not exist if they were based on customer surveys. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford are famous for their disapproval of customer surveys. There is also plenty of research to back up the ineffectiveness not to mention the wasted resources and even disastrous errors in judgement from conducting customer surveys. 

Customer SurveysThe Toyota Way

I take more the Japanese approach which is to observe customer behaviour rather than asking for their opinion. Toyota in the 1950’s launched their first car into the US market without doing their research and it was a complete failure. So much so that Toyota completely pulled out of the US car market to rethink their plan. What Toyota did was study the behaviour of US car owners. For example they would watch US drivers struggle to park their cadillac sized cars and knew that smaller cars were the way to go. South Korea have followed the Japanese model and now companies like Samsung send people to live in foreign countries. They don’t just live but must integrate to fully understand the people and how they think, feel and act often staying for years.

McDonalds and Coke 

Surveys are almost always loaded questions and even if they are not, what people say they want is not always what they do. For example McDonalds surveyed customers about food preferences asking if they wanted healthy choices with an overwhelming yes. Who wouldn’t want healthy choices? The reality is while the majority said yes to healthy choices the same majority choose the unhealthy choices when they are standing at the counter. This has proven a very costly mistake for McDonalds with 700 stores now closing and currently in deep trouble I would guess there is a connection here. Another classic example is Coke. The Coke/Pepsi challenge showed that 70% of people in a taste test preferred Pepsi so Coke created New Coke to match the Pepsi taste. The result was a disaster and almost sent Coke bankrupt. They quickly reversed their decision and went back to classic Coke and saved the company.

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My hotel experience

I recently stayed in a hotel where the sink was blocked, the Internet wasn’t working plus a few other minor problems. A survey or feedback form could in this case, reveal these problems but so can a staff member going through the experience of a hotel guest. Put yourself in the shoes of a guitar student walking through each and every step to see how they see the experience of learning. Remember, most are beginners coming into an unfamiliar environment. How do they feel? What do they see? Try asking a friend to walk through the process giving you honest feedback each step of the way.

The lesson here is simple. Put yourself in their shoes and judge people by their actions not their words. 

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