To provide products and services that excite customers, you need to understand the very basics of who your customers are and what they need.

  • What do my customers look like?
  • How much are they willing to pay?
  • What matters to them? What needs or problems can my company fulfill?
  • Can my business serve them better than anyone else?

Think about how some of the giants have achieved their success. Amazon's No. 1 customer service ranking is no fluke. The company has relentlessly invested in areas like personalization and fulfillment to continue moving the needle and improving customer satisfaction. For example, two-day shipping was revolutionary until they offered one-hour shipping to some customers.

Your customers, demystified

There's an easy way to find out what customers think. Ask--and keep asking. Customers are more than willing to share their opinions and can often provide the exact input you need to make real connections.

By routinely investigating and asking for customer input, you will better understand, react to, and improve both customer relationships and your market standing. Survey customers in these three areas to get the information you need to create positive change for your business.

  1. Brand Equity. A brand equity study investigates your overall brand health. In a brand equity study, any potential or existing buyer for your product provides feedback about your brand and your competitors' brands. The idea is to have a comprehensive understanding of how you are positioned in the market and whether this aligns with what your buyers desire. Some questions might focus on:
  • How are you perceived in the marketplace?
  • What is your reputation?
  • Are people aware of your brand?
  • How does your brand perform relative to competitors?

Since a brand equity study also investigates key competitors, you will know how you stack up, including your business's strengths and weaknesses. This will help you understand how your business can grow by properly focusing on building your brand and bridging market perceptions.

  1. Advertising effectiveness.While a brand equity study can diagnose the health of brand, effective advertising and marketing influences brand perceptions. John Sculley, Apple's CEO from 1983-1993, once said, "People talk about technology, but Apple was a marketing company. It was the marketing company of the decade." With ad campaigns like "1984" and "Think Different," Apple solidified its reputation as a brand of imagination and innovation.

To develop advertising that can change perceptions about your brand, employ a survey technique called copy testing. A copy test allows you to give any type of ad--print, radio, tv, digital--a "trial run" with consumers before rolling it out. In a copy test, consumers view a draft copy of your advertisement. Then, they answer key questions, such as:

  • Does the ad change a consumer's perceptions of the featured brand?
  • Is the main message getting through to consumers?
  • Is the advertising memorable? What do people like or dislike about it?
  • Does it get the consumer to act in any way?

With a copy test, you discover whether your ad resonates with consumers, allowing you to make necessary changes so that you tell the brand story you intend. 

  1. Customer Experience.Delivering a great customer experience is a top strategic objective. From the moment of inquiry, to purchase, to use, you want to meet or exceed expectations.

A customer satisfaction survey is a way to solicit feedback about how customers are experiencing your product. What are you doing well? What needs improvement? What makes a customer satisfied, or not? If there are issues, where are they occurring, and what is their cause?

When tracking customer experience, this usually means closing the loop and addressing customer complaints as quickly as possible. With every customer or support team follow-up, you will be building a database of issues. While some patterns may be obvious or require follow-up, your customers will always manage to surprise you in the ways they use your product or service. As patterns begin to emerge, you'll learn which product or service changes may be necessary to best serve your customers. 

Stay curious

Surveying your customers in these three areas is only the beginning of your quest to ask more questions and get better insight from them. You may have pricing or feature preference questions. You may wish to innovate and co-create with your customer base. Beyond surveys, in-person interviews are another way to ask key questions. For example, while surveys provide robust numerical data, complementing this with focus groups or one-on-one qualitative interviews can allow you to dig even deeper with the customer. Here, rich insight can emerge through customer narratives or detailed customer experience stories. Sometimes what is needed is to hear directly from the customer. Having them in the room with you--even through a virtual focus group environment like video--allows their stories to resonate deeper.

Customers always appreciate knowing there's someone available to listen when they have something to say. Every personal interaction with a customer informs their experience, as well as yours, and serves as a chance to build stronger rapport and loyalty. In the end, you aren't just collecting information; you are collecting insights from engaging in conversations with the people who matter most to your business.

Published on: Oct 15, 2018