Lynda Thompson joins from the United Kingdom to talk about her role as an independent research and customer insight consultant in the building industry. We discuss her work and how it is helping to bridge the gap between building product manufacturers and the product specifiers on the design team.
Lynda’s worked in the areas of customer liaison, software training and development, and qualitative market and social research over the last 30 years. Understanding customers motivations and their needs is at the forefront of what she does.
She’s driven by the desire to facilitate communication and collaboration across the many disciplines in construction, and to improve understanding of the jargon and acronyms used in the industry. She’s worn many customer engagement hats over the years, mostly working in the built environment, architecture and construction sectors (much of that time for NBS, the UK National Building Specification). Previous roles included software training, customer support, user experience research, market research and a very long time ago box office manager roles at the London Philharmonic and Aberdeen Box Office.
Now Lynda works as an independent research and customer insight consultant and works for clients like product manufacturers, industry membership bodies (like Constructing Excellence and the RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects) and more recently in the UK energy sector with the Fuel Bank Foundation. She likes nothing better than using various research techniques to find meaning in qualitative data and provide independent and actionable findings to decision-makers. She identifies research questions and decides on the best methods (focus groups and interviews are her favorites) to use to help organizations that yearn for a better understanding of their markets and customers.
In this episode we discuss:
How her mother noticed at a young age she was a people person and how that plays into her role today
how Lynda’s distance from both sides of the table (she has no formal training in building product manufacturing nor specifying) has helped her research and facilitation in the building industry in regards to impartial research
an explanation of her approach to the process: to talk to people—but more importantly to listen—and to give people an opportunity to have a voice and to speak; to dig deeper beneath the surface of what people say in order to get to the real meaning
how she learned her listening skills in previous roles by immersion
her experiences working with the National Building Specification (NBS) in the United Kingdom teaching people how to use the specification software and gathering feedback on the product development team
how Lynda helps bridge the gap between building product manufacturers and architects
examples of universal themes heard across many BPM’s and specifiers that identify the existing gap including: dealing with jargon; specifiers inability to keep up with the overload of constantly changing information; the opportunity and importance of BPM’s educating specifiers; the importance of the proper timing of communications in the design process; the difficulties of access to specifiers (gatekeepers, timing, etc.)
the opportunity for real relationships between BPM’s and specifiers to help solve these issues
a look behind the scenes of a facilitated focus group and what kind of feedback could be surfaced from one
what specifiers actually want when looking at products
the importance of BPM’s understanding specifiers to truly be able to serve their needs
the current state of BPM’s websites and how specifiers are using them (or not)
the importance of confidentiality and anonymity in moderated information gathering sessions for qualitative feedback on products
what the most difficult part of facilitating groups is
why BPM’s need to understand the context a specifier is operating within when embarking on product selection
what options Lynda offers to those who don’t know what they want to know, don’t know who to ask, or don’t know how to go about it
the benefits of early inclusion and participation in design phases for BPM’s
how different project delivery methods lead to different levels of participation from BPM’s and how small changes in that approach could make major positive impacts for specifiers