The Art of the Customer Visit: How to Learn from your Customers

At DYMO Endicia, the customer is at the center of everything we do. This has its roots in our consulting days back in the 80s (yes, we’ve been around that long…) where we basically built software products to help companies automate and as the cliché goes, save them time and money. We got pretty good at it and always remembered to listen to the customer. And sometimes you learn to listen with your other senses and by seeing things that aren’t obvious. You may go into an office to look at how they use your software but really you should be looking at say, the little desk in the corner of the office for some manual tedious process that would save your customer tons of time. The not so obvious can be oh so valuable to your product development.

When we launched Endicia over 10 years ago, we continued that tradition of listening to the customer and making sure to visit them in their environment. So I started adding customer visits to some of my trips around the country. One of those trips is a personal annual “working vacation” I take to Wisconsin and I go on customer visits with US Postal Service Sales staff. We would usually plan three or so visits in the Madison area mostly to existing customers but we also visit prospects. I’ve even packed boxes. One time we packed a car full of packages and drove them to the post office.

It’s always fun to see how our software is being used every day. I usually like to ask our customers something along the lines of, since you have me here, is there anything I can feed back to our team back home? What would you like to see? I always come out learning something from our visits and it makes for fun times!!

One of my simplest duh moments was visiting a very interesting customer that shipped different airplane batteries (tons of different types, amazing…). They were extremely happy with our system and had no requests. As I sat with the person using our software and saw what she was doing I noticed her going to the postage log and manually doing email notifications one by one. I proudly told her that she could automate that. She – of course – already knew that but nicely told me that it didn’t work for her since she sometimes would end up refunding some postage and needed to wait to make sure they had shipped the part. So we changed the automation to give you the option to drop the refunded orders from the notification list and that improved the experience for her and I’m sure many other customers, too. Tons of features have come from simple customer feedback and insights.

Everyone wants to know what to ask when you visit a customer. Of course, you ask all the obvious ones (how do you like it, what feedback you have, what printer, speed, size of label, sequence of fingers, etc) but what’s more important is to observe them in action for an extended period of time. Find out their pains, how they use the system, what else they have to do manually in their job, all the other little things and there you will gain insights.

I’ve visited customers where the U.S. Postal Service Sales staff has setup the appointments and others where our sales or marketing staff have set them up. However, some of the most fun ones are when I am in a city and search our database by ZIP Code and then go randomly visit some customers. I do bring gifts (Endicia shirts and paraphernalia or See’s Candies) and nicely introduce myself and surprisingly I’ve always been welcomed and get at least a few minutes. I got surprised once when a customer had literally just gotten off the phone with our support staff and was shocked (and screamed excitedly) about how I could be standing in Wisconsin when our office was in California. This was one of our first multi-location shippers (also based in Madison) and she got two shirts!!

Anyway, it’s always a great feeling when I visit our customers and find out all the great things they are involved in and what they ship and their business stories. It will always be fascinating to me to see how many small businesses there are out there each with their own uniqueness and special values. Thank you for being our customer and thank you for being you!!

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