Understanding your customers – any opinions?

Today British Gas (BG) placed adverts in a number of national newspapers inviting customers to join a panel that will review BG’s operations, discuss their views with its leaders and report publicly on their findings. It struck me as an innovative and high profile way of engaging with customers.

I am currently planning a special report for the Finance and Management Faculty on the issues surrounding starting up a business (keep your eyes peeled in the first quarter of 2010 for this publication). According to the experts that I have spoken to one of the main causes of business failure is a lack of adequate research into the proposed customer base and market place. Understanding and retaining customers is crucial for all sizes of business.

I would be interested to hear how your business understands, and engages with, its customers.  In particular:

- Do you have any examples of initiatives that worked particularly well and those that didn't?  

- Have you used (or observed) any particularly innovative ways of engaging with your customers? 

- As a professional accountant, what was your contribution or role in these initiatives? 

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