Lessons Learned From Asking and Listening
On a recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky, I had the opportunity to visit some end users of my company’s products. I set up the trip with the help of two integrators in order to research and understand how our products are used, managed and maintained by the end user.
As a manufacturer, these meetings are invaluable to me. All too often, when I’m on the road, I fly into a city to meet with dealers and consultants. I talk to them about how our products can be used and sold, learn what projects they have in the works, and ask if they’d please consider our products. Over the years, this approach has served me and our company well.
This trip was different. It was an eye-opening experience in that it allowed me to talk to those who actually use the products. What a novel concept! And yet, it’s one that we manufacturers don’t often focus on because we go to market through the channel. This trip allowed me to ask users about the challenges they’re experiencing, what they thought should be improved, and why? It was an enlightening experience to get a real understanding of how products are used day in and day out from users that didn’t hold anything back.
Our products are personal devices that people use, for example, on tours and in theaters, houses of worship and stadiums. We, our dealers, and our consultants are focused on sound quality and ease-of-setup. What I learned on my Louisville visit is that the end user is focused on how to manage, maintain, use and dispense the personal devices. They also need to know the best way to clean the devices and charge the batteries, and they want to know how often they should replace the batteries.
These are all issues that come up after the sale, installation and sign-off. Often, users never think to ask these questions at the beginning because they don’t have the experience yet to know what to ask. I’ve always believed accessories are important and I learned they’re often the most critical part. Accessory items may be the small details of an overall system, but they are often what causes venues the most grief.
I’ve taken what I learned from this trip back to my company. We’re focused on bringing this voice and perspective into our product development. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done this in the past as well, but the perspective we’re getting now is much stronger.
Visiting Louisville reinforced so many things I appreciate about what I do, the industry I’m a part of, and the people I’m privileged to connect with. I love building relationships, and I’ve learned that dealers enjoy bringing manufacturers with them on client visits. It shows their client that they have the support and backing of the manufacturer. I also learned more about the dealer contacts that will help me be a better partner to them. What I enjoy most in this industry is that I am continually learning and growing. Others are so generous with their time, thoughts, and suggestions — if we just ask the right questions and truly listen.