Who is my customer and what does he need? That’s the most important question a company can ask itself. Knowing what he needs will guide you as to which elements you need to integrate in your product and communication to target your customers. This will influence the experience you’re giving them, and providing your customers with a great experience will elevate your company to a whole new level.
You probably think you know your customers, but building upon the assumptions of what you think your customers need can be very tricky. The problem is that we like to reflect our own needs on our customers. “We are customers too!” So what we need will be the same as what they need, right? No, it isn’t. Never assume you know what your customers need, do some research first. It doesn’t take a lot of effort and time to gain those little insights.
Now, what tool are you going to use to get to know your customers? I bet you’re going to say ‘online surveys’. Great, they give you insights into the big picture, they give you feedback about specific interactions and give insights into experiences. Yet surveys are very limiting, especially if you really want to know your customers. We are hard to comprehend given the fact that most of our actions are based on emotions. A survey doesn’t give the opportunity to correctly question why and how we do the things we do, it only scratches the surface of what we’re researching.
Another disadvantage is the latent needs; most people aren’t even aware of why they do the things they do or what they really need. What do you want to eat today? I don’t know! What do you prefer? Pasta, Belgian fries, fish, … ? You need a good set of skills to detect the latent needs and qualitative research methods are adequate for this.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do surveys, qualitative research methods are a great supplement for quantitative research. With quantitative research you can detect problems or areas of opportunity and see where there is need for improvement, but with qualitative research you learn not only how to tackle the problems and why they form a problem, but also investigate how to fill in the gaps and innovate. There are 3 ways to gain the most out of your qualitative research to obtain a holistic overview of your customer. Analyze unsolicited customer feedback, conduct ethnographic research and gather input from your employees.
Understand your customers
Analyze unsolicited customer feedback
We like to vent our opinions from time to time, word of mouth is driven by our emotions. And in the internet era, where better to vent our experience than on the worldwide web? The e-mails a company receives from their prospects and customers are very valuable, the same goes for chat discussions on the company website, posts on social media and the phone calls customer service receives.
Engagor is a great tool to keep track of your whole social media assets, to see what people are saying about your brand on blogs and forums. Another tool is our own social UX approach; get a holistic overview of how people perceive the interaction with your social media and see where there is room for improvement.
Via the analysis of the customer feedback, you gained more insights into what their motives are, you gained insights into their needs and now it’s time to take a deep dive into their world. In our last article, ‘No empathy, no optimal UX’, we explained the importance of empathy in user experience research. Empathy is essential for gaining the most accurate insights in your users’ behavior and is inseparable from UX research. And what better way to trigger your empathic feelings than ethnographic research?
Ethnographic research is a cluster of different techniques which all imply you going out of your comfort zone. Leave your desk and step into the working space or living environment of your customer. Ethnographic research is a great way to observe and study the behavior of your customers. See how they interact with your product or service and discover what they need to make it work for them. Detect opportunities to improve their experience.
Now that you’ve detected how your customers use your product, what their latent needs are and how they experience your product/service, it’s time to tap into internal company knowledge.
Gather input from employees
From my experience different departments don’t like to work together. Yet it’s the most necessary thing to do if you’re positioning yourself as a customer-centered company. Customer experience is a hot topic nowadays, everyone states he’s contributing to a great customer experience. Well act like it! Work together with other departments.
Your call centers, sales representatives, technicians, marketers, accountants, social media consultants all have a wealth of knowledge regarding your customer within their working field. It’s best to get a holistic overview of how your customer perceives every single touchpoint, every single interaction with your company. And what better way to do that than to let every department work together? Bring your whole team together, do a workshop, gain valuable customer insights and break down those silos. Only then you can offer a uniform customer experience.
Translate your previous findings into easy formats
Now that you’ve gathered different insights it’s time to get to work, analyze those insights and transform them into workable information. We find it easier to digest visuals rather than text, and luckily there are two very visual techniques you can use to translate previous findings into easy digestible information. Namely personas and journey maps.
Document who your customers are via personas
Make a summary of each interview and each observation you had of a customer. Try to plot the main differences and detect obvious segments within the data you gathered. Once you’ve detected these you can cluster all the information per segment or profile and try to recreate a fictive customer from it. This is a persona and they are at the base of your development, they represent your target customers and give insights into their behavior, motivations, goals and fears.
Each persona you’ve created has a different way of handling the product or service, they come across different touchpoints and therefore have a different customer journey. Personas help you to keep in mind for whom you are developing.
Document what your customers do via journey maps
A customer’s journey can be visualized in a journey map, it basically consists of the whole journey a customer makes. It goes from discovering your company or product/ service, evaluating the product/ service, buying it and using it to asking for support (which is hopefully not needed). Highlight the critical touchpoints and interactions where a lot of problems occurred or where people registered a bad experience.
A journey map embodies why it’s important to gain insights from your employees, so let all the departments work together! Deliver the same high standard service in each and every touchpoint because they all have an impact on the overall customer journey, the overall customer experience.
I hope this will help you in your next research when you’re trying to figure out who your customer is and what he needs. Otherwise we can help you in more detail.