“I need to understand my customers better" is a statement we at StackAdapt hear quite often.
If you’re not sure whether understanding your customers is important or not, consider how one misunderstanding can adversely affect your business. According to Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner, for every one misunderstanding or unresolved negative experience, it can take 12 positive experiences to make up for it.
When you consider the amount of work it would take to create those 12 positive experiences, it becomes apparent just how important it is to understand your customers and their values.
On the other hand, customers actually have more power than ever before. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, “news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.”
Thanks in part to social media, your customers have been given a microphone through which they can raise questions and express their compliments and concerns—and this impacts you hugely. Take, for example, McDonald's recent attempt to boost their social media presence with the Twitter hashtag "#McDStories." They were hoping for inspiring and fun stories—what they got were complaints, criticism and bashing. They eventually pulled the hashtag, but not before the mud was very publicly smeared.
So the big question is, how can you better understand you customers?
Before we dive in, we should note that there's a distinction to be made between knowing who your customers are, and actually understanding your customers. Both are important, of course, but if you don’t understand your customers, you’re not going to be able to know their true pain points and how they relate to your value proposition.
Understand their choices
Take the time to “walk in your customers' shoes” and understand their range of choices for products, suppliers, partners, etc. This will help you better predict their moves and should also deepen your understanding of your competitors.
A good way to start down this road is by asking yourself: "Why do your customers buy from you?" It's hugely beneficial to look at your business from your customers' perspective. It might even lead you to some surprising, previously unknown fact, as to why some of your customers are buying your product or service.
Participate in collaborative learning
Invite some of your customers to your site and then set up a training session for both your employees and your customers. Allow them to learn together about a topic that's important to both groups. This will help your employees get a better understanding of the customers’ needs and how they solve problems.
Go out in the field
Send a team out into the field to look at diverse customers and get a sense of how your company can serve them. This can also help build rapport between employees and their customers.
While you're out visiting your customers and taking the time to get to know them, here are some questions you should ask:
- What problem is your customer trying to solve?
- What hard-to-find information do they seek?
- What do they read (books, magazines, websites, etc.) to get their information?
- What questions do they need answered?
This information can also help you improve your content. Having a good understanding of your customers makes it easier to identify what content they find valuable.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. One of the best ways to gather a better understanding of your customers is by asking them what they care about.
Draft up an e-mail, send it to a select number of customers, and see how they respond. You'd be surprised at how willing customers are to evaluate a company. Give them an opportunity to express their likes, dislikes and desires and you'll be that much closer to truly understanding your customers.
Taking these steps will help improve your relationship with the customers you already have and should help you in your quest to gain more customers. And as we mentioned, it will also allow you to create content that narrows in on their pain points and provides value by offering solutions.