Conversing with customers

Jennifer Rice has just added an interesting post on Talking with Customers. Essentially saying ethnography (ie watching what people do) is great AND talking to folks is also pretty good – even if it’s true that sometimes people make predictions about their own behaviour that aren’t true.

An important Yes And by Jennifer.

And my further Yes, And is this: I think conversations are more than an instrument for learning about customers. They are more than a research “tool” to be equated alongside other methods and assessed by reference to their supposed validity. A lot more happens in conversations than the mere exchange of data. Conversations are part of a process of relationship building in which people influence each other, often unconsciously. Sometimes the words exhanged are not the the most important thing going on in a conversation. If we focus only what is explicit in conversation, we may miss something crucial. Conversations are a vital way for people to align with each other, to feel like they know each other – even if the actual information traded is in some way “invalid”.

Conversations have the power to build community. Fellowship even. Studying people remotely is not the same thing, even if it also has a role to play to informing us.

1 thought on “Conversing with customers

  1. Johnnie Moore

    But ethnography is much more than observation! It involves talking to people, watching what they do, participant-observation, asking people to show you things, and crucially – your own sense-making from what was said, what wasn’t said, how things were said, and how what was said didn’t always line up with what you observed. It’s a highly interpreted activity, and the fact that people don’t naturally articulate certain things is a terrible misconception about the process – because the role of the ethnographer is to surface things that don’t get expressed ordinarily and to interpret and infer from what is expressed.


    Steve: Good point, I think my four word definition of ethnography oversimplified what happens. I think we’re agreed that there’s more going on in relationships than gets articulated!


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