If you want to grow your business and profit margins, understanding customer needs is the key.
This means identifying your customer’s pain points and finding ways to deliver the best possible customer experiences.
If you take care of your existing customers, bringing in new customers becomes a whole lot easier.
This is why it is no surprise that focusing on improving customer experience results in up to 80% of an increase in revenue for businesses.
Keeping that in mind, let us talk about some ways you can focus on your customers’ needs better.
1. VOC surveys
Voice of Customer (VOC) surveys are a great way to give your customers the voice they need to tell you exactly where you can improve. This can be through whatever medium suits your business and your customers – surveys, interviews, etc.
Having that data in your hands can be invaluable. It is the future of your business – the route your products and services need to take if they want to truly succeed in the competitive market.
These tools help you conduct market research by getting you in touch with the right people to take your survey. These people will be your ideal customers based on demographics like gender, income group, age, etc.
However, VOC surveys aren’t a guaranteed fix for identifying and meeting customer needs.
To be effective, you need to ask the right questions. That means:
Keeping questions simple and to-the-point
The easier it is for customers to answer your questions, the more likely they are to fill in your survey, and the more feedback you’ll receive.
Steering clear of leading questions
“What do you think of our excellent customer support team?” That’s a leading question because the word “excellent” can produce a biased response.
Keep your questions neutral
A better version of that question would be: “Rate our customer support team from 0-5.”
Asking a mix of close and open-ended questions
Close-ended questions (e.g. “Do you like our new product?” can be answered in a single word, or by making a multiple-choice selection.
They’re useful for quickly analyzing specific pain points. Open-ended questions. E.g. “What do you like about our new product?” requires a longer, more nuanced response that provides more detailed, subjective feedback.
Both play a key part in meeting the needs of your customers.
2. Keeping in constant contact with your customers
Selling your product or service does not mark the end of your relationship but rather the beginning.
You can contact customers following up on their purchase, asking them to rate your service, or letting them know when you have a discount going on.
Follow-up review request messages should be a standard part of your email marketing process.
Once a customer has been using your product or service for a set amount of time, ask for feedback, just like pet products retailer Chewy does in this email:
This is a great example of a product review email because it:
- Clearly explains what action the customer should take next
- Makes it easy for the customer to review each product in turn by including individual calls to action
- Reminds the customer of the specific products they purchased
There are multiple benefits to consistently communicating with customers in this way.
Firstly, it demonstrates that you care about their experience and genuinely want them to enjoy your product, which can encourage loyalty.
Secondly, it helps you identify areas in which their needs aren’t being met (or could be improved upon).
And thirdly, 93% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase –– so the more (positive) reviews you have, the better. Particularly as 73% of buyers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month.
Asking for reviews not only shows customers that their opinion matters, but you can also use those reviews on your website to show potential customers how much your brand is trusted.
Business Insurance USA does this on their site by syndicating their Google reviews to show up on their page:
AMZ Pathfinder does something similar on their website as well:
In both of these cases, the companies succeed at showing website visitors how they can help them grow their brand.
3. Actions speak louder than words
Surveys are an extremely valuable tool in helping you identify and meet customer needs. But it’s worth noting that actions often speak louder than words.
One issue with surveys is that not all of your customers are going to complete them. That means the results are naturally skewed toward the type of people who are prepared to spend their time filling in surveys.
Even if you offer a huge incentive for taking part, you might not get a truly representative sample of your customer base.
Another potential problem is that customers might tell you one thing when they really think another. It might simply be easier for them to give you a five-star rating than to express their true feelings and explain what they didn’t like about your service.
Fortunately, there are lots of analytics and marketing tools that help you gain insight into your customers’ needs without specifically asking them.
One option is to use a heat-mapping tool like Hotjar, Segment, or Smartlook.
These solutions help you understand how users engage with key pages on your website, highlighting the on-page elements your customers interact with and demonstrating how far down the page they scroll.
Here’s how it looks when applied to Hotjar’s own pricing page:
Analyzing this data gives us a clearer understanding of when customers are facing barriers that stop them from converting, or are looking for information to inform their purchase or improve their user experience.
Sticking with the example from Hotjar’s site, we can see quite a lot of users are interacting with the frequently asked question: “How do I install Hotjar?”
This might indicate that customers who have already purchased Hotjar find it difficult to install and aren’t certain how to proceed.
Clearly, this would be a big barrier to satisfaction: if they can’t use your product, they’re unlikely to be happy with it!
Of course, this data alone doesn’t tell the full story because it lacks context.
However, used in tandem with information gathered during your VOC surveys, this data should give you a much clearer understanding of how customers feel about your product.
4. What does your staff have to say?
Your front-line staff spends a significant chunk of their time speaking to customers, which gives them a unique understanding of customer needs.
Employees in different roles will naturally have different insights into what your customers require.
For instance, sales representatives should have a clear view of how your proposition compares to your rivals, and the key factors that ultimately inform a prospect’s buying decision.
Meanwhile, your customer service or accounts team will understand the type of support customers are likely to require two weeks, six months, or a year after choosing your product.
The customer service team is constantly in touch with customers via live chat or support tickets. They are the closest witness to real customer pain points.
Clearly, it’s in your best interests to tap into the vast knowledge of customer needs that exists within your own organization. Having team meetings where everyone pitches in within their own ideas, experiences, and thoughts could really benefit your business long-term.
One of the best ways to do this is to tie customer satisfaction into your employee recognition and rewards program. Incentivize your team to identify areas in which your customer experience is currently falling short, or suggest new measures to improve satisfaction levels.
5. Look back on your own experiences
We all have preconceptions about the product or service we sell and what our customers think about it, based on our own knowledge and experiences.
It’s important not to rely solely on those preconceptions –– clearly, they’re going to be biased to some extent, however rational and objective we strive to be.
But on the other hand, we also shouldn’t totally disregard our own experiences. Chances are, you understand your market much better than a potential customer who may never have bought a product like yours before.
Take a long, hard look at your customer journey. Based on what you know about your product and competitors, look for areas in which it currently falls short.
Similarly, think back to times when you bought a totally new product –– one that you didn’t fully understand before purchasing it.
How did the vendor convince you they were the right choice? What did they do to resolve your concerns? And are you meeting the needs of your own customers as effectively?
Bringing it all together
There are lots of methods to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs. So which is best?
The honest answer is: all are equally valuable. Or, to put it another way, none are valuable without the context offered by the others.
VOC surveys can get you answers to specific questions, but they don’t represent how your customers behave in “real life”. Your employees have a ton of valuable insights, but their opinions might be skewed by their own satisfaction and engagement levels.
That means the best way to identify and meet customer needs is to draw on as many sources and data points as possible.