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Polls and surveys are nice, but perhaps the best market research is to sit and chat with your customers. We think that would make for a fantastic office meeting, too!

Close your eyes and imagine a big round table. Sitting at the table are the most important people in your company: Your customers, and your agents. Now imagine the conversation: what they want, what they like, what they don’t like, from your customers’ mouths to your agents’ ears. No need to bring in an outside expert. No need to create a PowerPoint presentation.

Perhaps the most important conversation your company could have this year.

Now, back to reality. Will your next office meeting be as valuable as our imaginary customer conversation? It could be, if you invite some special guests from your past, current and future client base.

It doesn’t have to be overly structured. Simply reach out to five or six consumers, and ask them if they’d be willing to share with you their experiences and expectations. Don’t ask them to create a presentation, or an outline, or anything formal. Just ask them if they prefer coffee or tea, donuts or muffins, and if they’d be willing to share. You don’t even have to compensate them, because today’s customer wants to share.

Because they want you to listen!

Nothing makes modern customers happier than when companies ask them exactly how they want to be satisfied, then go out and do it. It’s the companies that don’t ask that irritate them. Modern customers are used to products and services being totally tailored to them: Apple didn’t call it an “i”-Pad by mistake. In fact, they want the customized experience on purpose.

What better way to create that purpose – and communicate it to every agent, staff member and leader in your company – than to simply let customers say it at your next office meeting. Such straightforward information gathering from consumers can be transformative. It can break through resistance – to hear customers say they prefer Twitter to telephone calls. It can motivate agents to make good decisions – to hear customers say they want the truth about prices, even if it hurts. It can direct leaders to focus on the right things – to hear customers say they care little about your web traffic, and care more about how fast you can close deals.

Customers provide us guidance and feedback all the time. If they purchase (or don’t) from us, they validate our decisions. If they come back a second time, or refer us, they guide us further. Yet we hold meetings – whether planning, training or updating our organization – with only ourselves present. We might send them a survey, or ask them for feedback after we complete a sale. But why wait until then – when valuable time and resources might have been wasted?

Even with the best modern listening tools – searching Twitter can be very revealing – sometimes a great conversation requires a meeting. And since most brokerages have meetings every week, why not host the greatest conversation you’ll probably have all year. Invite some consumers to your next meeting. Then sit around and listen. We bet you’ll hear some very powerful things you won’t find any other place this year.

And here’s one more prediction: You won’t have any problems getting your agents to attend that meeting, either.