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Igniting Employee Passion Through Deep Customer Insights

fireworksThese days, keeping employees motivated is no small task. Between workplace financial concerns, and ones at home, people become discouraged, even apathetic.

So now is a great time to think creatively about re-igniting employee passion.  And to do that, a little customer insight can go a long way.

Customer Insights Ignite

In most companies, only a small percentage of employees have direct customer contact. And even of those that do, such as in retail, they are so busy that it is hard for them to really observe customers and get a sense of their attitudes and behaviors.

Yet I can tell you from 20 years of experience, that when people get the opportunity to listen to and observe clients-amazing things happen.  Here are some examples I have personally witnessed

  • Engineers erupting into a productive debate about how an existing product can be modified to meet an emerging customer need.
  • Sales people excitedly specifying new customer training materials that they want to deliver personally.
  • Executives formulating new pricing models on the spot.
  • Product managers devising new, hard-hitting competitive positions.

And that’s just a few examples.

So yes, the mood in companies these days is a little down. But with a relatively small investment, we can re-ignite employee passion.


There are several options, but the fastest track is to simply use updated versions of a conventional research technique: focus groups.

Do you think of focus groups as a kind of dated methodology? Yeah, they can be. But there are also lots of very cool, new techniques used in focus groups these days that make them fun for participants, and will generate lots of “aha!” moments for observers. And focus groups are fantastic because you can have a group of employees observing in real-time, and get a DVD to those that were not able to attend.  Many focus groups facilities have observation rooms that can comfortably sit 15 or even 20 people.

If you don’t have a research agency partner that does focus groups, you can find some on the or the QRCA ( sites, or shoot me an email and I’ll give you some more suggestions. If you are on a really tight budget and want to do it in-house, you can contact focus group facilities on your own-and they will connect you with freelance moderators in their areas.

If you have any questions or comments, please add them here, or call the blog requests line at 508.691.6004.


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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2 thoughts on “Igniting Employee Passion Through Deep Customer Insights”

  1. I just received a great question on the blog line: “I would like to have the product developers at my company observe focus groups, but I am not convinced that would really “hear” the customers. They are pretty opinionated people. How can I be sure they would be open to new information?”

    Here’s a couple of tips: 1. Bring someone they respect who is an advocate for listening with an open mind. If they see someone else listening carefully, taking notes, they will be more inclined to do so as well. 2. Give them some structure for observing. For example, tell them that after each group you will do a debriefing where you will ask everyone to share 3 things they found surprising and 3 things they feel they can use. Giving them an “assignment” is a great way to make sure they pay attention. Good luck!

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