As many Americans vote in today's mid-term elections, I can't help but think back to November of 2016. Most memorable to me is the almost unanimous failure in predicting the eventual outcome. The level of incompetence among mainstream media outlets is staggering. If any of us in business had missed the mark as badly as they did, we would have been handed our walking papers.
To prevent this from happening to our companies, we need to understand why these polls were so wrong. We can't afford to misunderstand our customers like this. It is the difference between our success and failure. Honest feedback is the key to understanding the Voice of the Customer (VOC).
Here are three things we need to do when checking the pulse of our customer base.
Don't take a stand. Ask the question without telegraphing your desires. Most people don't want confrontation. They want to please. They will tell you what they think you want to hear. Do not lead them.
Do not insult those who do not share your opinion. While this has been building in the media for decades, I have seen business people cross the same line. People who like the competition's solution are not idiots. They have different needs and see the world differently. If you insult them, they will conceal what they want.
Avoid having any agenda other than understanding. As most news agencies in the US polarized to the far left, they have found it almost impossible to foresee anything that didn't align with their views. The elections of 2004, 2010, 2014 and 2016 are examples of this. Inventors have a very similar problem. They think their baby is beautiful and tend to dismiss any feedback that says otherwise. Look for the truth, not validation.
Ultimately, the only thing to matter is how people vote. Your customers are going to vote with their wallets.