What are your customers looking for next?
by Clicktools Guest Blogger, Jeannie Walters
Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Even when we ask for feedback, customers can’t always tell us what they want. So how can we find out before losing them to competitors?
Feedback, data and watching the market can still guide you to the right places. It just takes a certain lens and a willingness to dig into what your customers are telling you – even when they don’t know they’re saying it. While none of us have a crystal ball, there are still signs to read about the future.
1. Watch for changing behaviors, not just words.
Humans are tricky because we often act on something before we really understand why we’re acting on it. It’s easy for us to say we are satisfied simply because we don’t know what’s next.
Consider what happened to Border’s Bookstores.
They relied on seeing satisfied customers as the end of the story. Those satisfied customers began changing their behaviors, though, by visiting the stores less frequently and relying on e-readers before Border’s was close to offering them. Border’s took the stance of thinking customers would behave the way they always had, instead of understanding the way the world was changing around them.
Tracking the right behavioral data is just as important as tracking the feedback from customers. Watch for patterns that indicate something is changing – even if your customers don’t yet know to tell you.
2. Verbatim responses can be the canaries in the coal mine!
By examining verbatim responses for patterns, key words or just general information, you can get ahead of what might be a serious issue in the future. Sometimes, this is just a matter of asking questions like “does this happen to other customers” when you spot an issue reported only once or a handful of times.
Many customers won’t tell you when something goes wrong, so making sure the ones who do are seen as representatives of the larger population can help you avoid bigger issues in the future.
The bigger issues, the ones that cause PR disasters and sometimes business failures, are not always big right away. They start with one complaint. And then another. And then there are dozens. If the first complaint is taken seriously and seen as a possible representation of others, those PR nightmares might be avoided.
Couched in those complaints are often requests for what they are seeking. A complaint about hours of operation, for example, can tell you your customers are seeking better round-the-clock support or service.
What if the online and mobile options were better? Would that remove that complaint? These are the types of questions to ask to turn those near-defectors into loyal customers.
3. Watch for trends, but don’t get caught up in hype.
After several years of attending the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, I’ve seen a lot of amazing trends become reality. One year, QR codes dominated the exhibit hall. Brands were so excited to put those funny looking bar code squares on everything from water bottles to t-shirts.
The problem, of course, is the way they were used. Having a QR code scan to nothing better than a regular web site is silly and offers too little of a reward. The t-shirt QR codes made even less sense because as humans wore those shirts, they moved as humans do, making the code impossible to scan and awkward to boot!
Sometimes innovation is driven by “what’s next” instead of “what’s actually good for customers.” This year, the most hyped tech at SXSW was Virtual Reality (VR). This technology is admittedly “cool” and exciting. But it also has a chance to be useful in some situations. But it doesn’t do every business good to play in this sandbox.
Customers can certainly help you understand how to best use these new technologies, but don’t let them convince you to jump on the next big thing if it doesn’t serve them or your company.
Trends do come and go, so be sure you are listening for what customers want instead of what they think is cool.
Innovation is so sexy, so intriguing and so exciting.
It’s difficult not to get caught up in innovating for what’s cool, but it’s important to look at the real data – and your customers’ real lives – to really understand and deliver what your customers actually want.