Discovering what your customers needIf running a business could be broken down into major steps, there would be one that would take approximately half of all the effort you put into your business.
If running a business could be broken down into major steps, there would be one that would take approximately half of all the effort you put into your business.
This step requires you to answer a question that could potentially be worth a million, possibly even billions of rupees.
That question is: ‘What do my customers need?’ Businesses that have found ways to answer this simple question correctly have gone on to become household names.
The answer for Facebook was ‘my customers need an easier way to interact online’, for Microsoft it was ‘my customers need software for their computers’, and for Airbnb it was ‘my customers need to find cheap places for short-term stay’.
Understanding the needs of your customer might seem straight forward, but just asking them about their needs rarely gives you the insights you are looking for. Discovering what the customers want is an art.
Years of research in this field have developed techniques and tools that help entrepreneurs and businesses gauge the interests and needs of the consumers.
Therefore, learning how use them effectively will make answering that essential question easier.
One of the oldest and therefore the most tested methods of conducting customer research are taking surveys.
Surveys provide a way to gather data from lots of people quickly. All you need are either printed questionnaires that you handout to people, or an account in online services like Survey Monkey which allows you to send mass survey requests online.
However, due to the ease of use, this method have been so overused by companies that most consumers are now unwelcoming to the idea of filling out surveys.
Therefore, while creating a survey, simplicity is the key. To get accurate results you have to know how to ask the right questions in the right way.
As a business, you will be reaching out to people that are busy. Take care to make your surveys assessable and easy so that it doesn’t take long for people to understand and answer the questions.
These are the hallmarks of a great survey. Yet, just these are not enough to ensure that your customers answer the question.
Many businesses give out monetary incentives or free access to their products as a reward for answering the questions.
Furthermore, if you are trying to learn about the problems your customer face, then open ended questions like ‘What is the biggest challenge you face while renting a bike?’ would give you answers that provide insight. The general rule of thumb is that open-ended questions are better where diverse answers can be expected.
Run focus groups
Seeing that surveys have been overused and that they fail to give an in-depth view of the wants of the customers, businesses have started using a more personal method called focus groups.
A focus group is a face-to-face meeting with a group of people you believe could be your potential customers.
Focus groups are an effective way to collect extensive insights into the wants and needs of the customers through their verbal as well as non-verbal cues.
The face-to-face nature of this method allows consumers to express their emotions freely, which in turn gives you more data than answering a few questions in a survey.
Focus groups are great when you have a clear vision about what you want to achieve from the session.
This understanding will help you guide the discussions and steer focus towards the crux of the subject.
Focus groups, at its core, allow your consumers to brainstorm about your idea or product.
Therefore, it works great when you need people to build upon the ideas of the others, such as, new feature discussions, figuring out the need of a product, reflecting on the problems they face on a daily basis, and so on. Abstract ideas and problems are easily explored in focus groups.
However, focus groups aren’t the perfect method to uncover true customer behaviour.
It is highly susceptible to ‘group think’ where participants feel pressured to agree with a popular opinion rather than voice their unique one. This phenomenon results in the discrepancies between what people say in the meetings, and what they actually do.
Observing what people do
Years of consumer research has taught us that consumers generally aren’table to express their problems even though they face it everyday.
We can blame this on the fact that we subconsciously tend to deal with problems by creating short-term fixes instead of finding a long-term solution.
For instance, if the door to your room creaks every time you open it then in time you will either find a way to ignore it or open it in a way it does not creak.
Therefore, when asked to describe any inconvenience in your daily life, it is unlikely that you will remember the creaking door.
The same applies to many other problems in our lives—we get so used to it that we tend to forget its existence.
Seeing this subconscious ability,businesses have come up with an observation technique called ‘follow me home’ research. In this kind of research you follow a potential customer at home or work, and spend the day watching them do their work.
These kind of observations helps recognise inconveniences that could have been over-looked in questionnaires or interviews. Once you are able to understand the daily life of your target customer, you can then draw a ‘customer journey map’.
In this map, you express the experiences that your customer goes through in their daily life and where they encounter the problems you are trying to solve.
This will help you visualise how your product will impact their lives and change it for the better.
Monitoring the competitors
Perhaps one of the most underestimated methods of getting information about what customers desire is by looking at what your competitors are doing.
If you are just starting out and your competitors are already established, it becomes beneficial for you as there is much that you can gain by analysing them.
One of the easiest things to do in this aspect is looking at how their products have evolved over a period of time, and what the modifications your competitions have made are. It is probable that most of these improvements were made because of consumer feedback.
Furthermore, internet and its services can be a great tool for you to learn about the competitors.
Almost all businesses have a Facebook page, so you can simply look at how they interact with their customers, what the customers say about the brand, their suggestions, the disappointments they faced while using the product, etc.
Similarly, there are many product/service review sites like ‘Trustpilot’, which gives the general views, and in-depth analysis of products generated by various customer reviews.
In the beginning phases of your business, internet is the most powerful tool you have, so make sure to use it to give your company as much advantage as possible.
In businesses, customers are always right, so the most important thing you can do for your business is to make sure that you understand the needs of your customer.
The business that have been able to do so have risen to fame, and those who haven’t have just become a statistic.
As a business, recognising what your customers want can be hectic and chaotic. During those times, relying on these tried and tested tools will help you get to the answer you seek much faster.