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Identifying customer needs

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money elsewhere."

Sam Walton, Walmart founder

 

Many companies make the mistake of determining their products, services and strategies simply by making internal, unplanned and uninformed decisions without paying close attention to the customer.

However, it should be your goal to intimately know and understand your customers’ needs. Once this is achieved, you’ll be on the path to delivering market-leading solutions, products and services.

While the concept of truly understanding your customers’ needs seems like an obvious one, many companies either fail to do it completely or simply do not invest enough time and effort into the process. At Workstar, however, we understand that paying very close attention to your customer will give you a competitive advantage in business, and we’re passionate about helping companies tap into the direct challenges that their customers face. We have developed a range of experiential eLearning solutions that arm employees with the skills to identify and understand the complex requirements of customers, and to then offer the most appropriate services or products. To help you start thinking about how your customers’ needs should always dictate your behaviour, we present five essential steps to transform the way you listen to the people that matter the most.    

 “Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know                         how much you care

 Damon Richards, Entrepreneur

 

1. Identify Your Customers

Identifying your customers is the most critical step in identifying what they need. The way to achieve this is by undertaking comprehensive research into their backgrounds and behaviours to provide you with a clear and detailed customer persona. You and your team need to ask yourself who your main customers are, how your products and services meet their needs and also what would further improve their experience.

The use of Customer Relationship Management systems allows you to collect useful data on all customer contacts and transactions, purchasing and service history, product inquiries, complaints, communication channel preferences, and responses to marketing strategies. Reviewing published market research on the sectors also allows you identify trends or changes in the market and in purchasing patterns.

Your goal is to carry out research that will provide you with an expansive view of your customers’ needs - along with future customers’ needs – and this will help you develop a more detailed picture of them and understand how to target them appropriately.

 

2. Find Out What They Want

Best-selling author and global business consultant Roy Hollister Williams says, “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.”

The best way to unlock those expectations is to engage in market research into your customers and potential customers’ needs. However, it’s critical that your research is comprehensive. 

Ask for personal feedback from your existing customers, facilitate focus groups, produce special events to get to know your customers better and use external surveys to gauge customer satisfaction levels prior to and following their customer service experience. Don’t be afraid to ask them tough questions about their experiences, your products and services, and take the time to find out about your competitors. Social media is also a fantastic way to see, in real time, what your customers are saying about you in a public space. Using every avenue of feedback will allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and also to collaborate with your customers on how to meet their needs effectively.

In particular, discovering your weaknesses may deliver the most useful results, and as Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

 

3. Learn from within

While customers can provide beneficial insights, some companies fail to gather critical information and feedback from the people selling and speaking about your products and services on a daily basis: your team. 

Your sales, support and customer service teams will have a wealth of knowledge that will inform how you will innovate and develop new or upgraded offerings.

They know the customer and the product, and they have access to what the customer’s feedback, requests and complaints are. They’ll also be able to provide you with patterns and unique case studies to consider.

Not only is this beneficial in understanding what your customers need, but it will also empower your team to feel part of the process in developing new solutions. This employee engagement will most probably result in a positive impact on the implementation of the new products and services you deliver as well!

 

4. Analyse your competition

Observing and analysing your competition is one of the best ways to discover what similar products and services to yours are being offered. No industry can afford to be complacent, and it’s crucial to observe and be aware of every similar product and service in the market at every given moment.

It’s worth engaging research firms to conduct analytic and objective reports around your industry, and to also use the SWOT rule, which ensures you identify your competitors in terms of their:

- Strengths

- Weaknesses

- Opportunities

- Threats

A great approach is also to analyse your competition both specifically and broadly, and to observe your competition in not only the same industry, but also other industries as well.

 

5. Innovate

In the book Managing The Customer Experience, Shaun Smith and Joe Wheeler write, "You must re-think who your customers are; what they deeply value; and how your organisation can deliver a customer experience that is consistent, intentional, differentiated, and valuable."

Once you’ve undertaken intensive research into your customers’ needs, researched the market critically and asked for honest and meaningful feedback, the most crucial step is to develop products and services that are unique and exciting market game-changers.

At Workstar, we have developed a range of experiential eLearning solutions that help businesses determine what their customers are thinking, how they’re behaving, and what challenges they are facing. Our solutions replicate real-world customer experiences, and they empower employees to then deliver the most appropriate responses and services, which in turn can transform productivity and profitability.     

We understand that identifying what your customers want on a deep level will allow you to prioritise innovation over imitation, and as a result, you’ll be on the path to delivering relevant, game-changing products and services.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower

Steve Jobs

 

If you’d like to talk to one of our learning experts about our award-winning experiential solutions that empower your team to identify your customers’ needs, please contact us today.

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SOURCES:

Smith, Shaun and Wheeler, Joe Wheeler (2002)

Managing the Customer Experience: Turning customers into advocates Paperback

'Understanding customer needs'

http://www.ksl-training.co.uk/free-resources/customer-service/understanding-customer-needs-and-expectations/

'Strategies for Identifying Customer Needs'

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/strategies-identifying-customer-needs-54317.html

'Identifying customer needs'

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/business.starting/market-customer-research/researching-customers/identifying-customer-needs

'How to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats'

http://www.marketingteacher.com/swot-analysis/

 

Topics: Sales