Who asks ‘stupid questions’?

I attended a great meeting this morning, organised by CESTAM at Worcester Bosch. The excellent keynote presentation by the Managing Director, Carl Arntzen was centered around the introduction of a total quality initiative several years ago and the significant improvement in customer experience that has resulted.
In his presentation, Carl highlighted some of the key features of the initiative, one of which was to include people from ‘outside the box’ in the TQI teams. Their role was to view a particular part of the business with fresh eyes and ‘ask the stupid questions’ that those closer to it weren’t asking.
Those of us who are parents will probably have experienced that phase when our children seemed to respond to everything we said with “why?”. It could be just me, but occassionally I found I couldn’t answer the question – not because it was hard to explain (although that did happen too), but because actually I didn’t know “why” and that made me question my own assumptions and beliefs.
If one of the roles of marketing is to understand, represent and champion the customer, then arguably marketers should be asking lots of ‘stupid questions’ all over the rest of the organisation. When the operations team say “this is perfect, we cannot improve it”, we should look through the customer’s eyes and ask why it has to be designed, built, packaged and delivered the way it is.
When we receive a customer complaint, rather than simply respond to it, let’s consider if this is telling us there is something we havent’ thought of yet. If one customer tells us about it then they could be an unrepresentative low importance minority, they could be the voice of the silent majority, or they could be the person who has identified how we can innovate and give our product or service an edge for the future.
Equally, someone probably needs to ask some ‘stupid questions’ about our marketing strategy, plans and activities!
Happy questioning,