Top Gun Debriefing with Your Customers

Tomcats over GW (2)
F-14 Tomcat crews preparing to “trap” aboard USS George Washington, and DEBRIEF their mission.

Leveraging Debriefing for Customer Discovery and Success

The concept and practice of debriefing creates a humble and constructive culture of continuous improvement within your company. Can you imagine the impact debriefing could create with your customers?

When fighter pilots return from each mission, the aircraft maintenance specialist are eager to hear how the jet performed and what components or systems need tweaking or repair. In a sense, the maintenance crews and aircrews enjoyed a provider-customer relationship, with both parties eager to engage in two-way communication towards continuous improvement. The more we communicated effectively, the better our jets performed, and mission success rates improved.

The same can be accomplished with creating a routine debriefing practice with your business customers.

Establishing and executing a Customer Debriefing Program can simplify and enhance customer success and retention in a number of ways:

Customer Discovery.   We often get through the sales and buying process without fully understanding who/how/why the customer picked us.  A Buying Process Debrief allows for a more transparent understanding of the customer’s buying process, who was involved at what level, and how we can improve the experience for future prospects and customers.

Customer Retention / Loyalty.  Much like Quarterly Reviews or Stewardship Meetings, routine Customer Debriefs allow for both providers and users to discuss what’s working well and what areas can be improved.  Product?  Service?  Use cases?  Previously unknown Value Propositions?

Marketplace Discovery.    Customer debriefs allow product, marketing and sales pros the opportunity to hear directly from customers the issues impacting their industry vertical, their customers, your competitors, and other factors that can impact your business, product development, target markets, etc.

Account Penetration.  A routine Debriefing meeting allows your team the opportunity to learn further about potential upsell opportunities. The Debrief itself isn’t the right time to begin pitching new offerings or services, but it certainly offers the opportunity to gather intel and develop future strategies for additional sales efforts.

Brand Differentiation.  While companies are evolving their approach to customer success and account management, introducing a prospective new customer to your Top Gun Debriefing approach and practice WILL differentiate you from competitors.  (I’ve come to believe that “customer success” is becoming a tired and ill-defined buzzword.)

Customer-Focused Culture Development.   A lot of companies give great lip-service to customer success and “listening to the customer”, but few really execute well on it or benefit from the work required to build truly powerful customer relationships. A routine Customer Debriefing Program will put the rubber on the road and bring customer feedback to the forefront of your operations.

Debriefing is the art and science of providing and reviewing feedback in a safe, blameless and constructive environment. Debriefing with customers should be no different.

Customer Debriefing sessions can be just as productive and valuable as your internal Debriefing program, with direct impact to your customer KPIs and bottom line.

Jack Liles is a Partner at TechCXO, providing on-demand Chief Sales Officer duties to client companies in need of go-to-market plan development, improved sales performance, leadership and structure. Jack is a veteran Naval Officer and recovering F-14 Tomcat flyer. Following his service, Jack earned sales and marketing leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS and at numerous successful (and unsuccessful) start-ups. Connect with Jack at

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