“A lot of it comes down to understanding the customer and capturing the voice of the customer.”
Atkore‘s David Campbell, Director of Product and Business Development, provided some insight into how the company is creating new products with the help of both contractors and distributors while appearing on the “DistributED with tED magazine” podcast. One of the key points of the conversation focused on what Atkore calls the “voice of the customer”.
“We are really honing on capturing the voice of the customer,” Campbell said during the podcast. “We partner with an experienced consultant and they taught us the approach to gather that critical information.”
Campbell added the consultant helped with active listening skills, and how to accept that information from contractors and distributors affectively. Atkore regularly sends out as many as 10 teams of three people to visit contractors and distributors to talk about new products they can develop. Many times, their visits are met with some surprise that it is not an attempt to increase sales on existing products. “They are not sales calls. We tried to introduce this to our electrical partners throughout the U.S., and it’s like, this isn’t a sales call,” Campbell reports. “We are here to hear what the customer has to say. We’re not here to sell our existing solutions. It helps greatly.”
Campbell says Atkore has performed more than “a couple hundred” voice of the customer meetings with contractors and distributors over the past few years, including during travel restrictions during the pandemic. Those meetings were held virtually. Ultimately, Campbell say, Atkore is trying to “peel back the banana” to get deeper information on customer needs. And once the process has begun to make a new product, the voice of the customer continues to be heard. Atkore will continue to receive feedback as the new product is developed. “We have a formal development process, but we will continue to gather that voice of the customer throughout the development process. We may go back to them with a prototype and showing them what it can do, and getting feedback on that. It is really that constant development process going forward because the worst thing that can happen is we come up with a product that no one wants. We didn’t accurately capture the information. So for us, we make sure of the touch points to make sure that we are adding value,” Campbell said on the podcast.
One of the key voices Atkore wants to hear comes from distributors, and even the smallest details are important when developing new products. “Some of the things they may care about is the packaging and handling,” Campbell said. “We want to make sure that there is a specific value prop for the distributor, and that we know they have a preference when it comes up to these new products so that it aligns with the contractor, their customer, and the distributor, our customer.”
Campbell added it’s the distributor’s voice that matters, because they are the often the final contact between the customer and their new products.
“We reach out to the distributors to have a voice of the customer session with them. We can think it’s the greatest thing, the contractor can think it’s the greatest thing, but if the distributors hate it, it’s going to fail. So we want to understand ultimately from the distributor’s perspective, what motivates them and what characteristics do they want to see in new products.”
You can listen to the entire “DistributED with tED magazine” podcast on Atkore’s New Product Development with the Customer In Mind below, or on any podcast player.