EXPERT ASSISTANCE If you suspect your customers are hesitant to open up for fear of damaging the relationship, it may be best to call in an outside research firm. Blind one-on-one interviews are the best way to gather objective feedback from the trade about your products & services. You may begin by asking respondents about the category in general to get top-of-mind feedback before biasing from them with your product's attributes. Then you'll want to guage the importance of a list of attributes and product or service features.
Focus groups serve a purpose, especially in early, exploratory phases of research, but they are subject to a group effect. It's important for a company to create its own ever-living feedback system. Provide the baseline for your customer feeback system. Then you interact with your customers & hold once-a-month executive meeting to review feeback. Customers feel that something real has come of their comment when this happens, and it actually does facilitate change within a company.
FEEDBACK TACTICs MOVE ONLINE Businesses now have many new feedback & research tools at their disposal. Anyone can purchase access to opt- in email lists or panels, which are available from professional list brokers such as e-Rewards & Survey Sampling Inc. Some list brokers & aggregators offer a raft of research services - from questionnare writing to email blasts to analysis. Focus groups have gone digital, too. Persuadable Research specializes in online techniques for everything from quantitative surveys to focus groups that can be conducted in real-time or in a bulletin-board format.