The greatest danger in customer interviews is hearing what you want to hear.

Your new product development should start where it ends: with the customer. When you take your “pride and joy” hypothesis to customers and ask their opinion, two bad things can happen: 1) They tell you what they think you want to hear. 2) You hear what you want to hear. Start by uncovering their needs, not testing your pre-conceived notions.

More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

The best way to hear (the customer) is often to see.

One of our best innovations started as an experiment. In 2004 I projected my notes during a customer interview. The customer loved it, the meeting went far longer than expected, and we haven’t looked back since. Sure, customers can correct your notes this way, but our biggest discovery was that customers own what they create and can see.

Read more in the article, The Best Customer Interviews Use a Digital Projector (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

How wide is your knowing-doing gap?

Most companies know they should be interviewing customers to understand their needs. But how many have changed behavior? Are most of your new-product teams out there doing great interviews when no one is looking? The knowing-doing gap is the corporate version of the New Year’s resolution, with results just as impressive.

More in article, Where New Product Ideas Begin (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Let’s hope you didn’t own that customer interview you just had.

If the customer felt they helped you with your interview, you probably wasted your airfare. But if they felt it was their interview, asked for a copy of the notes, and said you were a good meeting facilitator… you probably learned things your competitors don’t know. B2B insight skills are needed for this. Do your people have them?

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 9).

Overwhelm your competitors by turning a trickle of customer feedback into a torrent.

Some companies rely on a handful of internal VOC (voice-of-customer) experts to interview customers. You’ll do far better if you train a critical mass of employees—who routinely interact with customers anyway—to gather customer needs. Keep your VOC experts as coaches and trainers, but implement “VOC for the masses.”

More in executive briefing, Seven Mistakes that Stunt Organic Growth

All great VOC interviews are alike; every unhappy interview is unhappy in its own way.

With apologies to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina… all great voice-of-customer interviews are alike in the same way: The customer is talking during most of the interview. And they are talking about those outcomes (desired end results) they want to talk about. Anything else is clutter, much of which leads to unhappiness.

More in article, The Missing Objective in B2B VOC (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter)