Data Gathering: 10 Things to Bring With You to the First Real Meeting

Something’s wrong at your place of business. You aren’t growing; maybe there’s even a small, disturbing trend downward in the numbers, and you’re pretty sure something isn’t right. (Just the opposite? Maybe something great has just happened, and you know it’s finally time to put your best foot forward.) Time to make a change in your Customer Experience. You heard about this Experience Designer who can help you find the problems and fix them. You’ve read their website. Let’s face it, you read about five designers’ websites before you found the one whose philosophy jived with yours.

You talked on the phone, or had an initial consultation in person. This is the right firm for you, so you’ve signed on. They want to have a data gathering meeting, what VisionPoints calls our Discovery meeting. How do you get ready?

If it’s worth hiring an Experience Design firm, it’s worth using their time and yours efficiently. Here are the ten things you’ll want on hand:

1.  A good tour guide. Even if we walked through the first time, now we’re beginning to develop a framework for the project. We want to see what we’re dealing with, and we want to walk through with an experienced and very frank member of your team. Someone who’s not afraid to tell it like it is (ouch!).

2.  Your best understanding of the current situation. Designers ask a lot of questions, and you can start them off right if you know what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s got to be fixed urgently.

3.  All the decision-makers. If your spouse has a say, make sure he/she is not left out. If your VP of Marketing has to love the new direction like you do, then have the VP sit in. Miscommunications cause delays, carping, and less-than-enthusiastic participation, none of which move you forward at Maximum speed.

4.  Numbers: Revenues, customer base, profitability, employee retention, web stats… what’s bugging you? Any designer who’s going to help you get numbers up has to know something about the numbers. Once, design of all sorts was “for pretty,” and why it didn’t help you grow was your problem. These days designers of all stripes, but especially multidisciplinary Experience Design firms, want to do fine work that also has real value. Maybe they’ll even tell you your numbers are pretty good, and you can relax a little while you go through the redesign.

5.  Photos, lots of photos of your space, if this meeting can’t take place in person. Send them via email in advance. (Tip: Look up! Good designers want to see your lighting, which is tough to show in a photo.)

6.  All printed materials. From business cards to packaging, from brochures to invoices, gather it all.

7.  We’ve already dug into your Internet presence, to scope you out. (What? You think you’re the only one?) Pretend you don’t know we’ve been lurking, and highlight key points at your website or blog for us.

8.  Your Vision. Don’t be afraid to write something out. A little half-love story, half-rant telling who you are, why you are, and how on earth you (as a company) got to the point you’re at will do fine. Philosophically, strategically, I mean. You got the numbers together for #4.

9.  The best possible outcome. Where, in an ideal world, is the company going? As I said, good designers want to get you there. Increased number of customers, increased sales per customer, decreased costs, better “standing in the community” (warning: hard to measure), stop losing customers to the competition, more Internet sales without decreasing store sales, world domination… ?

10.  What happens if you do nothing? If you’ve never done a Change-Nothing Analysis (#2 on Brian’s list), this is well worth doing before you start an Experience Design project. (The answer, of course, is utter ruination. Even your cat won’t have anything to do with you. Do your own, and you’ll see.)

Discovery meetings are for more than gathering data. They are for gathering attitudes, sticking points, dreams, and goals. They can solidify internal support for Customer Experience initiatives, or show up stakeholders who are not ready for change. That buy-in is crucial, so now is the time to make everyone a cheerleader. The first choices about how this project is going to go are made today.

It’s like going to the doctor’s office: You know what’s wrong, where it hurts, and what outcome you’re hoping for. If you’re a parent, you go with the kid; you don’t try to schedule a follow-up meeting to “get on board.” Nobody wastes time, and you get your solution sooner.

This meeting can take an hour or two, max, or it can become six meetings that take an hour each if you haven’t done your homework before inviting your designer in to start theirs. We have a lot of work to do with you. It’s going to take cooperation and communication, which you can get started now. Your Solution is waiting for you.

Discovery meeting or not, put this list together today, and make a plan to update it quarterly. How does doing your data gathering help you aim for improved Customer Experience?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson