Owning a company is never easy, but it’s even harder when you don’t know what your audience wants.
The following article will outline the importance of knowing what your customers want and how to go about finding out their needs and desires. You’ll also learn techniques recommended by Clean ERSJ for gathering data and gauging reactions, plus the benefits of understanding firsthand the perspectives of customers both inside and outside your company.
Why Defining Wants and Needs is Important
Knowing what customers want and need is standard business practice, but the process doesn’t end once you’ve identified those wants and needs. If you want to keep your customers happy — and boost your company — you need to create a customer experience that meets those wants and needs, plus exceeds them. This can be hard if your customers don’t always know what they want. That’s why it’s important to learn as much as possible about what they value most in a business or product, then tailor your products or services accordingly.
To learn what your customers want, you have to stop thinking about what you want and start focusing on what they want.
1. Ask Your Customers What They Want
It’s common practice for organizations to find out what their customers think by asking them questions. But many organizations fall short because they don’t know how to ask the right questions or what to do with the answers they get back. The biggest mistake businesses make is assuming that because a lot of people agree on something, it must be important — but that’s not always true.
The following are some examples of bad questions to ask customers:
What kind of products would you like us to sell? (You aren’t asking the right question). What would you like us to sell? (A better question, but still not ideal). Please choose one of the following categories that best describes your needs: (This is a good start, but it offers no context or classification.)
The first two questions lead to ambiguous results. They’re too broad and generic to provide you with meaningful insight. The third option is better because it does provide context and classification, which can help you better understand what’s important to your customers.
2. Focus on Specific Aspects of Customer Needs
The best way to identify and define your customers’ needs and desires is by considering the specific aspects of those needs and desires. This will allow you to learn what your customers care about most, as well as what features or benefits they find most valuable.
The following are some examples where companies have focused on specific aspects of customer needs:
Cracker Barrel, a restaurant chain, got its start as a coffeehouse in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1932. Around that time, the company had an ad featuring a young girl who was holding up an old-fashioned menu with food descriptions. She was asking, “What time does the food come?”
The CEO of Zipcar, an online car-sharing community that debuted in 2000, visited MIT when he was in college and noticed that students there were driving around in cars even when they didn’t need them. His solution? An online car-sharing service where clients could rent vehicles by the minute.
3. Look Outside Your Industry to Find Out How Others Are Meeting Customer Needs
Another way to determine what your customers want is by looking outside your industry to companies you don’t compete with. You can use case studies obtained from other companies, or you can look for comparable products or business services that are similar to your own.
The mistakes that some organizations make include not looking at the ways in which other companies are meeting customer needs. For example, many retail businesses do their research for new products, but they don’t look at the ways in which other retailers are meeting customers’ needs. Also, organizations think they know an ideal product design by studying how customers react to existing products on the market. But customers often have different needs than those being met by existing products, so they may have more valuable ideas about how to meet those needs even if those ideas have never been considered before.
4. Conduct Interviews
No matter how you ask your customers what they want, you need to analyze and interpret the data that you gather. One way to get this information is through interviews.
When conducting an interview, ask questions that are open-ended and allow for more than one answer. For example, consider asking questions like “Tell me about your experience with our company” or “What would you like us to do differently?”
5. Reading their news releases
As previously mentioned, you may be the only retailer in your industry with a similar product to one you sell. If that’s the case, then you may want to look into what your competitors are doing to determine how each product is meeting customer needs. Learn as much as possible about how other companies serve customers by talking to employees, asking for customer feedback online, and reading their news releases. Sometimes reading through competitor’s websites or business profiles can also provide valuable insight into their products or services.