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It is the magic question, a single, simple question that helps consumers unlock the secret to a happier, more fulfilled life. And, best of all, the consumers supply the answers to that question themselves. All they need is a little prompting.
Kurt Ling, president of Customer Kinetics, a customer experience firm, is a veteran focus group researcher. He has a comfortable, easy-going manner when he conducts focus groups, one that helps consumers relax and share their thoughts with him. His whole demeanor encourages frank, open responses from consumers — and that is what he gets.
He showcased his skills last fall with a series of consumer focus groups he conducted on Leggett & Platt’s first Spring Alive Tour. That grassroots, national retail tour included consumer focus groups in St. Louis, Cleveland, Dallas and Los Angeles. The groups consisted of women in households that had purchased a bed in the last two years.
Ling has been conducting focus groups for years, but he was stunned to see how quickly the women made the link between a good mattress and a good life. He started that ball rolling with a single question: A good mattress helps you do what? Then he took the answers to that question, and asked the consumers a follow-up question.
He took those follow-up answers, and asked another question. Each time he repeated that process, the consumers thought more deeply about the implications of a good night’s sleep.
In the end, the consumers came up with some powerful benefits, all stemming from a good night’s sleep: They are happy. They are fulfilled. Their spouses are happier. So are their children.
Later, Ling reflected on the process, and what it had taught him:
“On their own, most people don’t think through how important a mattress is to their sleep, their day and their life. But here is the most important part: They know it in the back of their brain. Our job in selling mattresses is not teaching customers that. Instead, it is to help them discover that on their own.
“I am asking one simple question in the research that says everything,” he continued. “That question is: ‘A good mattress helps you do what?’ There is a pause and then they fire away at me. It starts with a better night’s sleep, moves on to a better life with more productive work, better relationships, a better mood, more patience with their children, no bags under the eyes and fewer crow’s feet.”
After he had elicited that powerful list of benefits, Ling asked the consumers how much more they would spend on a mattress, knowing that those benefits could be realized. “Each participant, and we have seen some pretty thrifty ones, tells me if they would have just thought of it that way, they would spend $200 more to two to three times as much on their next mattress,” he said.
And that left him with this conclusion: “As each day goes by, I am more convinced we should be asking one simple question that matters most: What does a good mattress help you do? If we let every customer answer that one question, we would make a huge difference in the industry and in people’s lives. I am pretty convinced we can teach everyone to ask one question.”