In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how to train your team to think with a customer-centric mindset. Here, in Part 2, we’ll talk about how to understand your customers.
The holy grail of all businesses is to thoroughly understand what customers want, need, and are willing to pay for. Then, you can serve up the product (or service) at the right time, in the right place, at just the right price point. Simple right?
Over the years, we’ve observed capable, smart, experienced stakeholders create beautiful decks, build strategic plans and roadmaps, and license technology in the pursuit of “know thy customer.” We find this results in so much person-power and money spent without doing the one (and only) thing that works each and every time: consistently talking with the customer.
Simply put: there really is no substitute for creating a program of continuous customer feedback that comes from – you guessed – customers directly.
How to understand your customers
There are multiple ways of understanding customers, from feedback loops to ongoing customer interviews to observing customer behavior when they’re interacting with your product or service. There are many details to these methods when put into practice, including active listening. It’s never an easy task, and it always requires preparation, resources, and iteration.
And yet, there is no alternative to understanding what your customers want, need, and are willing to pay for. Yes, there are many substitutes. These may include analytics, marketing research, anecdotes gleaned from sales and marketing folks, and competitive intelligence among others. All of these methods are useful supplements to directly talking with your customers, but they are inadequate substitutes for doing so.
There are cases where talking with customers is challenging. We once partnered with a client whose customers included US government agencies like the Department of Defense and NASA. Most of the time everyone we spoke with was constrained in sharing by strict NDAs.
Another example is when your customers are unable to communicate their needs, as in the case of some healthcare-related companies. These instances are almost always edge cases that call for alternative methods of figuring out what customers need. But even here, you’ll somehow need to get to those direct customer needs, not using inadequate substitutes.
For most businesses, figuring out what customers need through well-planned & executed customer-first programs that (1) directly and (2) consistently gather customer feedback, is as vital to the success of the business as producing products & services in the first place. In addition, this practice also feeds back into training teams to think customer first by helping create a shared, customer-first language everyone can get behind.