What our customers told us – Part 1

A recent survey of VisiMap users has provided us with a good deal of information. I’m going to share the findings in small doses over the next few days.

PASSION FOR VISIMAP
What Our Customers Taught Us

Companies want to know what their customers really think of their products and how they use them. More often than not, they survey them with a series of set questions in multiple choice format. CoCo Systems and its distribution partner, Dynamic Thinking, decided to go a simpler and more direct route to learn more about customer satisfaction with VisiMap software.

VisiMap falls into the classification of visual mapping software, also popularly known as mind mapping software. Mind mapping is the name given to the concept by popular writer and speaker, Tony Buzan. Buzan’s early books on mind mapping stressed its value as a memory tool – keeping ideas in the brain. A later book, co-written with his brother Barry, included insights on its use in getting ideas out of the brain and on to the page.

My own introduction to the concept occurred about 15 years ago, even though mind mapping had been around since the seventies. At the time of certification as a trainer in mind mapping in 1994, I encountered a cumbersome DOS software version and immediately knew that there had to be something better – and there was. I discovered VisiMap, the first visual mapping software written for the Windows platform.

Visual mapping software presents ideas in a tree structure radiating from a central core. Branches can be expanded indefinitely and can be enhanced by colours and images and linked to virtually anything in a file format. As software development has progressed, designers have added a multiplicity of functions without necessarily thinking about whether these are valued or even used. We were far more interested in benefits than features. So we asked our customers:

How has using VisiMap changed or improved your work or your life?

We weren’t really prepared for the flood of almost immediate responses. I was tempted to wonder, “Don’t these people have jobs?” But what was clear was huge enthusiasm and commitment. These were really nice people “Thanks for asking”, said Mike O’Sullivan of Adept, a UK based training and consultancy firm. as though we were doing him a personal favour.

We also weren’t prepared for how long the responses kept coming in. Some people took the time to write quite detailed thoughtful answers. Some, like Alan Williams, the director of Cerulean Visions Limited, a UK based consulting firm, even sent us comments in map format. There were entertaining stories and a highly credible response rate.

Users come from everywhere. South Africans mingle with Americans, New Zealanders, Danes, Australians and Canadians. Their job titles are eclectic. We were not surprised by a large number of consultants. We were more interested that users were also from fields like the military, human resources, litigation law, event management, the priesthood, university administration, film making, medicine, marine day charters and construction. One simply offered “mind-mapping junkie” as a job title. What united all of them was the need to create, refine and organize ideas and information.

And use VisiMap they did – for many things I had already thought of, but many that hadn’t ever crossed my mind. These are some of the many uses that our customers describe.

Getting ideas out of one’s head and on to the screen is still probably the most preferred use. Phrases like “dumping a jungle of issues and problems” “brainstorming”, “free flow of ideas” “personal problems and issues” suggested that users simply like to start with a central topic and let the ideas flow without judging them. “To be critical at the same time as I absorb new information creates bias before I can appreciate the value of new ideas”, observes South African consultant, Armand Kruger. The fact that one can simply start typing and get things down is liberating. “I can lay out ideas without worrying about layout or presentation’, one respondent said. “I can add new thoughts as fast as I can type”, said another.