It’s easy enough to take insights work at face value. Talk to enough people, do the analysis and the data will appear. At the executive level, reading insights reports or hearing analysis from local markets or insights leaders may feel like sufficient exposure to customer and user issues.

Good innovation leaders know the value of genchi genbutsu, go see for yourself. What does the customer experience when they encounter your product? How easy is it to find, select and repurchase? For on-line apps, what are the micro experiences that delight or annoy, and how much does the experience tip toward “annoy”? What is the customer’s ecosystem and purchase decision criteria, and how do your products fit within it?

Those who recognize, understand and empathize with customer pain points, and actively course-correct to improve the experience have a better chance to retain users. And the best way to reach that empathy point is for leaders to periodically get in the market and see customers interact in real time. Asking what works and doesn’t work will result in incremental tweaks. Actually seeing the pain points and customer work-arounds, asking about the experience, and keeping an open mind about how the typical user interacts with your products, can be enlightening. Remember, you may see and engage with your products every day. Customers may only interact with them occasionally, and it’s critical to understand the use behaviors of the majority.

Go, see, be open minded and be empathetic.

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