#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. https://researchbydesign.com.au/publications/

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:

researchbydesign.com.au/ (Company Website)

researchbydesign-asia.com/ (Company Website)

Sue's LinkedIn profile: linkedin.com/in/sueholz