Last week I went along to The Talk of Manchester to meet up with other North West businesses. The day rounded off with a panel of successful business people including Jennie Johnson (Kids Allowed) and Tim Bacon (Living Ventures Group) taking questions from the floor. One of the questions directed to Tim was whether he listened to what his customers had to say about his business. His response was very interesting, in a nutshell he said that if he listened to what every single customer had to say he'd become completely bogged down in it and it would take up all his time. Instead, he prefers to watch what his customers do, rather than what they say to him. There were a few gasps from the audience but he has a valid point. He did qualify his statement by saying that he does customer research, and takes note of what they say but he was emphasising the older adage of 'actions speak louder than words'.
We work in lots of different ways when it comes to research, sometimes (for easy to answer questions) we might just do a survey of mums. But often we need to dig a little deeper and that might take the form of opinion pods or lab testing. That allows us to both listen to what mums are telling us but also observe their behaviour and actions. For example, we recently did some lab testing with children who play on immersive worlds such as Moshi Monsters. We consistently heard from mums that they were concerned about the safety of their children when playing online. Then we sat in lab testing and watched several children quickly find and use the chat facility on some games, an aspect some mums didn't even know was there.
So many things skew what comes out of our mouth - the expectations of others (so maybe what we as mums think we should be saying or doing), thoughts others have put in our heads (from media to next door neighbour) or the difference between perceived and actual reality. We have to be masters of behavioural observation to gain real insight, to understand everything that isn't being said as well as the words we are hearing and the actions we are seeing.
That doesn't mean we can stop listening, we can gain information from asking the right questions, we just have to know when to go digging for more.