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It’s no secret that in today’s uncertain economy, businesses are relying heavily on their customers for longevity and survival.
As a result, satisfying their needs is imperative to keeping your business afloat. Living in a complex society with so many different influencing factors, it can become quite a challenge to keep on top of current customer needs and how they continue to change.
So to help you stay ahead of the game, we’re going to go over how you identify customer needs with this easy reference guide (which could, ultimately, make your business thrive).
What are customer needs?
These are often complex, interconnected and vast, so one way that we simplify customer needs is by separating them into two different categories: Product needs, and service needs.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customer needs and expectations are very much centred around what the product can do for them. Ideas for marketable products are often conceived with the idea that they solve a problem, but product needs refer to much more specific things than just that. It’s about how they do it, what impact the product has on consumers lives, the affordability, the usability, and so much more.
A lot of this information is gained through market research, surveys and other private customer feedback services that you can implement in your own business. Consumers have specific needs for all these categories, and any product can be far more effective and profitable the more they satisfy them.
Alongside the actual product, the customer service experience must also satisfy certain needs of your customers. The entire timeline of a sale includes the time before a customer even makes any sort of contact with a sales representative or sees your website. To fully understand our customers we need to know the extent of their journey and how to meet their expectations at each of these touch-points.
We need to understand them on a more personal level, which means not only do we have to be able to provide excellent customer service but in a way that resonates with your customers that is appealing to their own needs and desires.
So that’s a basic customer needs definition. But why is it so critical that we know about this?
The importance of understanding customer needs
No matter how innovative your product is, no matter how much money you invest in R&D, nobody will buy it if they don’t believe they need it. While there are plenty of marketing techniques to persuade people into purchasing a product, you still need a strong grasp of what your customers desire, for them to be effective.
It’s hard to advertise something as being a necessity, or valuable to someone if you don’t have a deep knowledge of what they find valuable or need in their lives.
Once you’ve researched and understood your customers, you can not only improve your products, but also how you operate in order to convince customers that your product, your brand, your business, is the right choice for them.
Types of customer needs
Customers will have an expectation of how a product will perform once purchased. Being in working condition is obviously necessary, but how effective it is at helping the user achieve their goals is another customer need that must be satisfied.
Before making a purchase, customers consider how the product will affect their lives, and a product’s compatibility with other products/applications is a serious consideration for all consumers. Convenience is another need that compatibility goes hand in hand with, and the convenience factor of having multiple products able to work seamlessly can’t be understated.
The longevity and dependability of a product are important for a variety of reasons. There’s the obvious; nobody wants to buy something doomed to break, but there is a sense of trust created when a customer buys a product, and when something a customer has purchased doesn’t live up to expectations, that trust is broken. The repercussions of this reflect poorly not only on the product but on the brand as well.
How to identify and meet customer needs
1. Mapping the customer journey
The customer journey can be mapped out for us to get a better understanding of where we can improve in fulfilling our customer’s needs. It helps us get to know the customer, and therefore we can devise strategies that improve their experience with our products and services. This can be done in 6 simple steps:
- Choose a customer archetype that currently engages with your business often.
- Characterise your customer phases (the discovery, exploration, comparison, purchase, retention, and advocacy phases)
- Identify the touchpoints where your customer can interact with your products
- Learn the thought process of your customers through feedback and data
- Identify the pain points that are holding you back, the areas you can improve on
- Plan a way to develop these pain points into areas of prosperity
2. Conduct customer surveys
One of the simplest ways to obtain any information is to simply ask, and what better way to learn your customer’s needs than going straight to the source. The lines of communication for feedback must be opened by the business, it’s not going to be offered up voluntarily in most cases.
Now more than ever, technology like Square feedback has made obtaining feedback easier and less of a bother for customers. With less intrusive ways of gaining invaluable data available, it’s a no-brainer as to whether or not you should be employing customer surveys in your market research strategies.
3. Breed a culture centred around customer satisfaction
A company-wide focus on the customer experience is key to being able to meet customer needs and expectations. Each section of a business must work in unison towards the same goal to achieve anything, and the subject of customer satisfaction is no different. By training employees at every level to learn about what customers want in their day-to-day interactions with them, you can realise your customer experience goals at all levels of operation.
4. Keep track of current customer satisfaction frequently
Customer satisfaction is a fluctuating thing, it takes effort to achieve, but can be gone in an instant. There are a few KPIs to look out for; customer satisfaction score (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS) and customer effort score (CES). These are all very commonly used metrics for measuring customer satisfaction, and data easily attainable through customer surveys. The volatility of public opinion can both help and hinder your business, so it’s best practice to constantly stay in the loop of what aspects of your business are held in high regard, and which are not.
5. Know your competition
We are forever looking for ways to improve, and where better to take our cues from than the competition. It’s not as much about how you size up against your competition, but more so what you can find in their procedures that leaves much to be desired for their customers.
Holes that you can fill with your business and entice customers over because you’re providing what the competition cannot. You should always be learning from your mistakes but being diligent and aware enough to learn from the mistakes of those around you is an incredible way of being efficient and effective in improving your business.