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#24 How customer research can define your business with Sue Holz


Welcome to episode 24 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have on the show today Sue Holz. Sue is the Principal Analyst and Director of Research by Design. Sue is a specialist in both qualitative and quantitative customer research. Sue has 20 years of experience helping organisations understand their customers deeply, allowing them to refine their strategic and continuous improvement efforts.

Let's get into the episode.


Starting her career at Diners Club as a marketing manager, Sue was inspired when a research agency presented their findings - the importance of understanding the customer through market research. Sue's understanding was 'before you can get it right, you really need to understand your customer'. She was inspired and had found her passion.

A move to Hong Kong followed, and Sue completed her master’s in international business. She wrote the very first monitor report for the snack food industry and went on to research for many other companies wanting to expand into South East Asia. Work snowballed.

Why is so important to understand your voice of customers, both current and future so profoundly? It's easy to get it wrong! Quite often, workers behind the desk have a rose coloured tint to their customer understanding. Gaining broad customer insights through conversations can be tough to acquire. Sue gives an example of two top banks, one in the initial trialling of ATM tellers, where the assumption was that they didn't think they would work. Hmmm... think about that one! Seriously, where would be without ATM's? And the other, deciding to shut down all regional branches, and after shutting down several, having to reverse their decision, and begin to reopen them again.

So, gaining customer understanding can help to save money and to earn improvement and initiative opportunities.

Sue believes the key to conducting good customer research revolves around asking intelligent, short, sharp questions. She talks about survey fatigue because of the poorly structured surveys that ask the same question in many ways. The best practice is to ask intelligent questions that allow you to find deep and meaningful insights and link the dots.

Sue spoke about the use of quantitative and qualitative surveys in today's market. Sue believes that 10-12, even up to 15 interviews (no more than 20) will provide quality information to base your decision-making capability. Intelligent questions, asked in person, or over the phone can give you the insights you require from a small group. The data gleaned will not change because of the higher number of interviews that you run.

What stops organisations conducting market research and gaining the benefits from it?

Well, Sue believes that this an area that requires more research! Indeed, organisations don't know how easy it is and don't know what they don't know. Sue has a publication on her website showing the ten easy steps for creating a useful survey.

One or two of Sue's projects each year give the insight "Do not proceed", and she provides a great example of what can happen when you do not have customer research. Asking intelligent questions to your customers should be part of your everyday business running.

For someone looking to do some customer research, Sue advised to:

  1. Think deeply around the problem that you want to solve.

  2. Develop specific questions that relate to that problem.

  3. Write out the shortlist

  4. Halve the shortlist.

  5. Structure the questions intelligently.

You should be able to nail it with five questions.

Sue is still excited to deal with each of her customers. She is thrilled to think about how profound and far-reaching customer research can be. Her team recently presented to a board, and their data enabled the business to make profound, significant change. Sue's company, Research by Design, also works in the not-for-profit arena, in NDIS and Aged Care, and ensures they work pro-bono. The importance of their research influences senior decision-makers, and they are thrilled to facilitate this.


Sue's website offers a range of free resources: (Company Website)

Sue's LinkedIn profile:


02:40min at the moment we've got three really exciting projects on the desk, and they're always a little bit different. I mean there are some fundamentals that are always the same: the methodologies are tried and proven, but the questions you ask, the outcomes that you find, the way you present the data, the impacts of that data is always different. There is just so much to learn. It's incredible. It's never-ending.

Video 11:56min but what they don't realise, and is actually a part of our mission, would you believe, is to convince the SME's the importance of research and how easy it is. You don't need big numbers in your qualitative research. Yeah. You just don't need 30, 40 interviews; you can actually do 12-15. That will give you an incredible amount of important information on which you can base good quality decisions.

16:36min No is a good outcome. People do not like to hear it, but there you go.

Video 17:26min so think very deeply about what problem you're wanting to solve. Think about what questions relate specifically to that problem. Write out your Wishlist, halve it, and then structure out those questions intelligently.

Key takeaways

The key takeaway from this episode was the power of capturing your customer's voice and how simple this is.

Customers of an organisation will ultimately determine the success or failure of the venture. Taking the small amount of time to define who your customers are, create a few open-ended, intelligent questions and interview several of them seems time well spent. I have always found the insights that organisations gain from this approach are excellent, and in some cases, transformative.

We spend a lot of effort every day overcoming challenges and trying to move our organisations forward. If this effort can be targeted based on our customer's voice, we can achieve a lot more with a lot less effort.

Thank you Sue for your clear, and important message of finding the voice of your customer. Bye for now.

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