Ways to Really Getting to Know your Customers

“We used to think that the enterprise was the hardest customer to satisfy, but we were wrong. It turns out consumers are harder than the enterprise because the consumer will not give you a second chance”- Eric Schmidt

Irrespective of what your (or another) company believes, there is always scope and many ways to really getting to know your customers. Really knowing your customers is extremely critical to business now since for customers now, personalized and customized service and products are top priority, and the reasons to keep them with a company. Without truly knowing what customers expect, need, and feel – a company would have no hope of retaining them – especially since there has been a significant rise in the number of companies offering similar products. Customers do not need to remain loyal or even buy short-term from a company that does not know them well enough, since they are unable to see the commitment to engage or build a rapport.

One of the greatest challenges for your company in really getting to know your customers lies within your company. It is critical to stop believing that your company knows the customers and that there is nothing new to learn about them. The mind-set must become one of continuous learning, and the desire to keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of customers. The truth is that customers say that companies understand them far less than they would like and yet companies believe that they are doing a great job of understanding them –this gap in understanding creates an imbalance and leads to customer churn and loss of business. Without really getting to know your customers, your company would most definitely take its customers for granted, since there would be no effort to deliver top class service, or build long-term and meaningful relationships with them. Such ‘neglect’ is certainly counter-productive, since research and data have proved beyond doubt that customers prefer working with people they like and trust.

The major challenge for your company in not getting to know your customers is that customers interpret their experiences in different ways. What seems like top class service for one, may fall short for another – hence without complete understanding of each customer, your company will never to be able to grasp the meaning of top class service for a particular customer. Even though different customers may experience the same problem, their reactions could be diametrically opposite – depending on their situation, prior experience with your company, and their personal characteristics. Therefore, before endeavouring to drive positive customer behaviour, your company must first make an effort to know your customers – and do so consistently. Through a better understanding, your company would be able to create better service strategies, enabling your company to better address specific issues that could be most annoying for a customer / particular customer segments.

As mentioned, it is a grave mistake for any company to believe that they truly understand and know their customers, especially without consistently and proactively, making the effort. In order really know your customers, it is imperative to collect, collate, and analyse data that pertains to them – your company’s ‘opinion’ on what customers could need is irrelevant. Your belief must be backed and substantiated by hard-core customer data, which will reveal what customers what and provide insights into their feelings, emotions, moods, preferences, and expectations. Using this data, not only can your company address their current needs, but proactively build strategies to address future expectations too. Any company that makes claims of being able to know their customers without using the data available, would only fooling itself, and would soon find itself in a world of pain.

We have spoken several times, about what is known as a customer’s journey with a company. This ‘journey’ is the sum of all the experiences a customer would have with your company, and even one negative or unpleasant experience, could put a stop to this journey forever. Your company cannot tailor experiences or personalize offerings unless it has made a concerted effort to know its customers – beyond just the business transactions. Your company, like many others, could be making the mistake of defining strategies and then trying to understand customers with regard to those. Obviously, this is a lopsided approach – you would do better by first getting know your customers that then putting in place metrics and tactics to identify and overcome their problems and pain areas, and provide experiences that are memorable, satisfying, and lead them to keep coming back.

It would seem obvious that in your company’s desire to know its customers, the best place to start would be the customers themselves. There is no point creating a website and products that customers would have no use for or would not connect to on an emotional level. In order to know your customers and do it well, it would be wise to seek answers from them. Asking the right questions – ones that would elicit honest responses, even if critical – is what your company needs in order to lay claim to knowing its customers. Asking questions makes customers feel important and valued – it shows your company’s commitment to providing them with the best, based on their needs and expectations. When customers can see value immediately in an offering / service, they are more likely to gravitate towards the company that offers them – irrespective of the company they may be in business with. Losing customers to a company that can provide them exactly what they want, would mean that your company would have to work twice as hard to match those standards and stay ahead.

Really getting to know your customers goes beyond their business transactions / experiences with your company. It is rather about understanding their reasons to buy, looking at providing them with holistic experiences (both online and offline), and ensuring that through your company’s efforts customers feel emotionally and rationally connected to your company. Every channel and touch-point they connect with, each experience they have and every message that customers receive must unmistakeably show them that your company is committed to making their lives easier and giving them what they want, when they want. It would hard for your competitors to break through such a relationship, thereby ensuring that your company retains its customers, and has several more opportunities to know them better. Really getting to know your customers then, is a process and must continue for the entire journey of a customer with your company. It would be foolish to rest on laurels, believing that since your company has delivered on customer expectations in the past it can continue to do so in the future without keeping pace with the changes in a customer’s life.

Receiving great service and products consistently are two things that customers reward with more business, glowing testimonials, and a steady stream of referrals. Over time, happy customers become walking advertisements of a company – which for any company could mean unprecedented success. Research reveals that prospective customers most often read existing customer reviews before making a buying decision – and several positive comments from customers is free advertisement and promotion for a company. Customers remain happy when companies make a genuine effort to know them and address their issues – prior to trying to sell. In really getting to know your customers, it is critical to never take your knowledge of them for granted or believe that you know exactly what is happening with them.

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