Part I is attended by both customers and employees. It is custom-designed but always involves a process of open dialogue and creative thinking that leads to a better understanding of customer needs. Part II is for employees only and focuses on converting customer input into specific action plans. (Prior to the conference we usually hold a briefing for employee participants that covers basic points about customer focus and prepares them for the conference).
Within this basic structure, the actual design of the conference can vary a good deal, depending on the specific objectives you want to accomplish. Examples:
This ultimately depends on the specific objectives of the conference. Generally, the customers should be people who know from direct experience how Client products are working for them and their company's needs for new products. They should also be people who who can make (or influence) decisions to purchase your products. Employee participants should be in positions where they can directly utilize information on customers' current and emerging needs.
Design and facilitation: Methodologies for dialogue and creative thinking
With most clients, we take the lead in designing the conference but work with a small team of key employees. We typically facilitate the conference, with appropriate people from the client organization playing leadership roles.
In assisting in the design and facilitation of both parts of a Customer Focus Conference, we bring a variety of well-tested group dialogue techniques and creative thinking methodologies. Here are some examples of methods we've used successfully in this type of conference:
The conference can be done once or several times. The basic methodology can be used on a regular basis as a primary tool for maintaining customer focus and ensuring early-detection of customer needs. Some conferences can be devoted exclusively to prospective customers. In addition, this type of conference can be used within the company as a way to maintain focus on internal customers.