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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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3.7. Customer research and its abuses

There are many different ways to abuse information about customers. Simply claiming that customers are important doesn't signify much. It takes no work to say "We care about customers" or "Customer satisfaction is important" because rarely does anyone ask how those beliefs map to organizational behavior. Even though in the last decade much progress has been made in refining methods for researching and understanding customers, most of it has not penetrated through to management- or engineering-centric organizations. It's still uncommon for project teams to have an expert in customer research, interface design, or usability available to decision makers.

By far, the most prevalent mistake I've seen in customer research is over-reliance on a single research method as the source for decision making. The fundamental problem with all research, scientific or otherwise, is that a given study assesses only one point of view on an issue (we'll discuss this again in Chapter 8). Each method for examining something is good at measuring certain attributes and horrible at measuring others (see Table 3-2). Just as you would never use a speedometer to measure your weight, or your bank account to measure your blood pressure (though they may be related), there are some things that surveys and focus groups are good for and others that they are not.

Table 3-2. Common customer research methods
MethodWhat is it?ProsCons
Focus groupA group of potential customers are ...

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