Ask the Customer Beforehand

Ask the Customer Beforehand image Ask the Customer BeforehandCustomers are arguably the best source of market research a company has—that’s an obvious statement. It’s just a question of whether the company realizes it and takes the time to talk with the customer base. Which isn’t as obvious for everyone.

Take that one step further, and maybe companies should start talking to their customers before they make big decisions. Companies make changes to their products and services all the time, but how many do a thorough survey to find out what their customers think of their proposed changes? Maybe they should.

Netflix could have benefitted from a survey or two in the summer and fall of 2011. The company tried to drastically alter its services and got an earful from its customers.

First, Netflix announced it was changing its pricing, which would result in some Netflix customers paying as much as 60% more than they currently were. There was some backlash, obviously.

Second, Netflix announced it was dividing its DVD-by-mail and digital streaming services into two completely separate entities. To the point where customers would have needed separate log-in information and would have had two separate bills—all from what was supposedly the same company. Again, backlash.

Basically, Netflix is heading away from its DVD-by-mail roots towards the streaming side of the business. Which, ultimately, makes sense given the continued growth of the internet as our primary source for our music, shows, movies, et cetera.

Netflix was just trying to stay ahead of the curve within the industry. After the second wave of backlash, however, CEO Reed Hastings told ABC News that the whole thing was a mistake.

“We moved too quickly,” he told Nightline. “We didn’t give it enough thought. We didn’t give it enough explanation, enough integration—and, you know, that has legitimately caused our customers to be angry.”

Not enough thought beforehand. I would change that to not enough research beforehand.

“I think we were just moving too fast,” Hastings told Nightline. “Sometimes, the thing that makes you great—your speed—can trip you up, and so, you know, we need to be a little bit more thoughtful as we move.”

Maybe just a little more research-minded. With the customer as the main subject. Before making a big decision.

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