I know Steve Jobs did not think that customers know what they wanted but there are ways of gathering customer intelligence which, is much better that continuing to assume you know best! In previous articles I have talked about how customer-centricity is critical for business survival and success and the focus being how you understand what it is that your customers really want from you.
IBM’s 2016 global C-suite study identified two critical changes:
• An increasing focus on customers as individuals.
• Increasing use of customer feedback as critical factors for ensuring preparedness for future industry challenges.
So, customers help you prepare for the future!
If you simply ‘ask your customers’ and ‘listen to what they say’, this assumes that your customer is self-aware of their view, wants and needs. A leading thought leader Gerald Zaltman, author of How Customers Think, said “about 95% of all thought, emotion, and learning occur in the unconscious mind – that is, without our conscious awareness.” This is a basic premise of Neuromarketing, customers generally can’t understand or explain why they make choices in the marketplace, and that efforts to tease out this information by asking them questions is doomed to misinformation.
All this goes to show is that humans are a complicated species but it is a complicated world and we still manage to survive and thrive so, do not think this is beyond you, this would be giving up on your customer and that’s not an option in a customer centric world.
To get closer to what are demanding customers, you need to get inside their heads and walk in their shoes. If the needs and behaviours of customers are unknown to them, and they change with their environment, how can your business ensure you speak to your customers’ needs in the best conceivable way?
Here are 5 ways to get inside your customers head:
- Take your Customers Perspective: To understand your customer’s full range of choices, influencers, suppliers, partners etc. Standing in your customer’s shoes will deepen your understanding of the competition your customers custom and help you better anticipate the influencers and your customers responses.
- Experience what your Customer Experiences: When I worked with AOL I helped facilitate technicians to sit with their customers, the massive revelations that surfaced from this simple practical experience of taking online journeys took the technical employees out of their comfort zone but to experience what their customers experience. I have heard of hospitals asking interns to experience the check-in process as fake patients. And another example of managers listening in on its call centre. You must have insight of the experience of all touch-points of the customer’s journey within your company.
- Put your Team in your Customers Field of Vision: A example is to add members of your back-office sand customer-facing support in to your customer team. So, they can experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of the company’s service from the customers perspective.
IBM regularly send senior teams from different disciplines into the field to meet customers and develop a deep understanding of how to serve them better.
- Co-Creation to Learn with Customers. GE invited its top customers in China and with local senior teams to co-creation seminars, this help GE executives better understand the mindset of valued customers.
- Consult with Future Thinkers: I project managed a Think Tank of diverse future thinkers invited to create the future for BP Retail. This really pushed the envelope of possibilities to focus on what BP customers will want in the future. You can envision different futures through scenario planning how shift in market shifts may influence your customers.
Remember your perspective is never your customers perspective and you must find ways to get out your own way and suppress the bias to really understand your customers view, wants and needs. Thinking that your own perspective, culture or company knows best how to do things, is a terminal disease no company can afford to pursue. This is referred to as self-reference criterion, also defined as an unconscious bias to one’s own cultural values, experiences and knowledge as a basis for decisions. Self-reference criterion can cause you to be blindsided to important opportunities.
I wrote a dissertation on how diverse team accelerate creativity. We all naturally find evidence to fit our own perspective, a diversity of views helps you to hear views that are not your own, and see new opportunities. It is true that you need to have an intuition attuned to your customer, however, if you follow some of the examples mentioned above you will be closure than your think. Because if you can truly hear your customers, they will tell you all you need to know.
Customer-centricity is the idea that you must transform your practice of how you engage with people built from the needs and desires of the people you serve. Thereby understanding your customers view, wants and needs is critical.