By Harry Chittenden
Who doesn’t want to know what our customers are thinking?
Every bit of knowledge about your customer base can enhance your relationship with them and increase loyalty. This makes your marketing job easier by converting them into more willing buyers, enabling you to communicate more effectively with them, building a moat of loyalty, and establishing a foundation for permanent, constant improvement. Customers love to be understood, so let’s learn what customers are thinking.
But how do we get this knowledge?
We can’t afford an army of statisticians and bean counters to do a survey that is necessary to collect thousands of responses to create a statistically accurate piece of information.
“We want to know your opinion!” pop-ups are as irritating as junk mail.
Not only are these intrusions annoying, but produce far less useful information than you can gather yourself.
The statistical approach is called quantitative research. Asking questions yourself in a one-on-one conversation is called qualitative research.
Quantitative research can answer a lot of how questions. For example,”on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your experience on our website?”
But it does not reveal any whys. It won’t answer any questions such as, “can you explain to me why you are frustrated with our checkout process?” Or, “why do you think searching our site is too complicated?”
Answers to questions like these can make you real money. Affirm that there is a problem with several interviews, fix the problem and your gross sales can only increase.
There are many experts in qualitative research, also called user experience research, who are trained to come up with the right questions and conduct interviews.
What if you don’t have the budget for that?
If you like people, and can treat them with respect and empathize with their frustrations, you can conduct your own qualitative research.
Get familiar with some basics about qualitative analysis before you start.
To learn what customers are thinking, have a question in mind. Have an issue that you want resolved. You will not have time to get overall opinions about what people think of your business, your product, or your website. You have to zero in on one issue at a time.
Give careful considerations to your questions. You want to know how your customer has experienced dealing with your business in the past and how he or she feels about it.
For example,”tell me about your experience at checkout.”
“When was the last time you got really angry at us? Please tell me about it.”
It’s best to record the answers so that you can give your customer your full attention. Taking notes can take your attention away from your customer. Subjects who feel that you are actively listening by maintaining focus on them will gain confidence and will be more and more open.
Needless to say, be courteous and treat this person whose honesty can help you make money, with the greatest of respect.
When you have completed five to eight interviews, look at each one and see what themes emerge. Where did your customer seem to be most engaged with what they are saying? Where did they feel the strongest?
Among your five to eight interviewees, important insights will arise amongst several of them. It’s here where you can increase revenue. If something needs fixing, fix it!
Is your check-out process on the website is too complicated? Simplify it.
Do your customers feel disrespected by your phone robot? Fix it!
A satisfying user experience brings customers back again and again.
Here are some tips for successful qualitative research.
When a customer you’re interviewing brings something to your attention that you find offensive, be grateful! They may be putting money into your pocket. Put aside your feelings of anger and resentment and dig for more information. “I’m glad to know that. It’s embarrassing not to realize it until now. Has that happened to you more than once?” “Ouch! Thanks for passing that on. When did you first notice it?”
“Have you had a better experience somewhere else?”
When recruiting interviewees, you must offer an inducement.
Give them a gift. It can be a gift card to your business or a gift card to Starbucks or a gift card to Amazon. Show your appreciation.
Build rapport. Take some time in the beginning for small talk. You both want to feel like this is an ordinary conversation. The more rapport between you and the customer, the more you will gain.
Pick a place to conduct the interview where neither you nor your customer will be interrupted nor distracted. You want this person’s full attention.
Towards the end of the interview, ask if there’s anything else your customer would like to discuss. Is there anything in our business, our website, our office that you would like to talk to me about?
Remember that improvements are incremental. They take time. If you can increase user satisfaction by 3 percent every couple of months, your volume can increase by as much as 20 percent in a year.
To know your customer, you must learn what the customer is thinking. You must know your customer’s needs, what problems he or she is trying to solve. This takes constant study and attention. Claude C. Hopkins, the advertising genius and author of the book, Scientific Advertising, said, “genius is the art of taking pains. The man who spares the midnight oil will never get very far.”
Over time, you can get very good at interviewing and learning what the customer is thinking.
You’ll even look forward to it. As you incrementally improve your service based on improved user experience, you will insulate yourself from the competition. Knowing what your customers are really thinking will give you a major advantage.
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To know what customers are thinking, survey them properly. It WILL set your business apart from the big guys.