Five of the Best Ways to Know What Your Customers Want

    By | Small Business

    The modern marketplace is a competitive and challenging environment. The increasingly global nature of doing business now means there may be less customer loyalty. According to a recent Experian study, three quarters of companies that have built strong loyalty programs are seeing a return on investment.

    Consumers may now be less trusting in general, especially since not all companies or industries have stellar reputations. Because of increased choice, online shopping and social media, customers have more power yet many are confused thanks to data overload.

    Not surprisingly, sales and marketing departments often struggle, because of data overload, to determine precisely what their customers want. Fortunately, with a “back to basics” approach, you can reconnect with your customers. Here are five of the best ways you can revisit a traditional formula to know what your customers want.

    1) Imagine You Are Your Customer

    When you are preoccupied with your core business and your range of products, it can be very easy to overlook what your customers want. Taking a step back to imagine you are your customer can allow you to see a fresh perspective on the range of choices, the products offered by competitors and factors that influence their buying decisions.

    This exercise can help you to develop a better understanding of your customer and other companies in your space. It will not only help you to more effectively market your business, but can also help you anticipate the strategies of your competition.

    2) Track Your Customer Activity

    Utilizing customer relationship management software can be helpful because such systems track customer activity. You’ll be able to determine if there is any stage of the ordering process where your systems aren’t keeping buyers engaged. Insight into whether your customer is satisfied helps you develop new, repeat customers. Often, these are the kind of people who recommend you to their friends and social media contacts.

    “A good example of this approach has been conducted at hospitals, where interns were asked to check in as a fake patient,” says John Boitnott, a longtime digital consultant who advises companies on customer retention. “This method allowed the interns to gain insight into the patient experience and helped them develop their bedside manner. Online businesses can replicate this by creating a fake order and tracking the process.”

    3) Create Diverse Customer Teams

    Often people get a little set in their roles in a company and forget about the overall impact that can have on the customer. You may wish to have employees work across departments from time to time so they can share diverse perspectives with each other. For example, place a warehouse team member in the sales department or vice versa. This change of environment is an effective way for people to share fresh perspectives on everything from customer needs to improvement of company processes.

     

    4) Learn With Your Customers

    Many companies take part in industry events and seminars but give little thought to inviting customers. However, this can provide a very illuminating snapshot into what your customer wants.

    This approach was used by GE, who invited a selection of their top customers in China to a seminar on innovation and leadership with account managers and local executives. This event helped the GE executives gain a better insight into the mindset of their Chinese counterparts.

    5) Anticipate Future Needs

    Focusing on what customers will want in the future is thought to be part of the vision of industry leaders such as Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. Seeing different futures with scenario planning tools will allow you to explore how market shifts will affect your customers.

    Understanding customer needs can be a real art form. You may have to get out of your own way in order to gain a real understanding of your customers. For instance, psychologists say you are more likely to listen for problems that fit your own solutions, while discounting others. This unconscious approach may cause missed opportunities because you’re addressing your own problems, not those of your customers. Try the methods mentioned here to see what your customers are saying. That will keep you on the path to building and growing your business.

    Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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