Every employee has a customer, whether it’s the end user of your product, an internal group, or someone else.
Because your employees are closer to the frontline than you are, they will tend to know more about these customers than you.
Make sure you’re tapping into this reservoir of knowledge—regularly and proactively. Too many managers try to lead while being quite oblivious to the needs of the customer. All the while, precious insights are sitting right there in front of them.
The US Army has a saying: Every soldier is a sensor. It goes for employees too. If you give them the opportunity, your chain of command can transmit highly valuable knowledge up to you, straight from whatever customer/client/constituency your team serves.
In 1-on-1s, you might ask questions like:
- “What are you hearing on the ground lately from customers?”
- “Have you noticed any common issue customers are having?”
- “What’s the most frequent thing customers appreciate about what we do?”
- “How’s [a particular customer] doing? Anything interesting going on with them?”
- “Is there a way I could make your job serving customers easier?”
- “What’s something you think we could do to unexpectedly delight a customer?”
And so on.
In a perfect world, every employee would be highly communicative of customer knowledge without even being asked. But good managers grease those wheels by asking good questions—they don’t assume they’ll be told everything important without having to ask.
Sometimes an employee may share a customer observation of thought they didn’t even realize they had—they just needed to be asked by you!
Don’t underestimate how a few well-placed questions can unlock customer insights that help your whole team serve people more effectively.