Customer exploration at its core involves opening an honest dialogue with a representative sample of your customer base to explore the level and type of relationships you have created with your customers. Generally the best way to approach this step is to create structured focus groups composed of the various types of customers that you currently serve. These can be organized and conducted either by internal resources or an external service provider, whichever you feel most comfortable with.
If you are operating in a start-up environment and don't have the funds or possibly even the time to organize and conduct focus groups, then please, please don't skip this step. At a minimum at least conduct a series of informal one-on-one interviews of a representative sample of your customers. The information gained from these focus groups or one-on-one interviews can be extremely helpful in determining your innovation strategy and your innovation goals.
We first must understand what types of customer relationships you have. There are three main types of customer relationships based on when your company begins engaging the customer. Some of these relationships may have additional variants based on additional characteristics of the relationship. Here are the three customer relationship types along with definitions, examples, and any associated variants.
Definition: The defining characteristic of an initial relationship ...