Deep Customer Understanding Drives Business Growth

Deepa Bachhu, Co-Founder & CEO, Pensaar Design Pensaar Design is design thinking & innovation consulting company offering services such as Customer Research, Experience Innovation, Business Innovation, Culture of Innovation and many more.

Yes it’s true, customers don’t know what they want! Yet, customers decide the success of your product or service. Customers today have an unprecedented number of choices and unparalleled access to products & information. To be successful, organizations must be customer-centric and design led. Organizations need to be thoughtful not just about the product, but about the entire experience that their customers have with their brand. This makes deeply understanding customers no longer an option but, a business essential.

Do shortcuts exist? Can you simply see what your competitor is doing and better it? Possibly yes, but you would see temporary success, at best. Spending more time understanding competition and not customers will only lead to incrementally better me-too solutions and certainly not disruptive solutions. Collecting data, talking to your customers, defining who your customers are simply isn't enough. We need to develop insights that go beyond who, what when and tell you why customers behave the way they do. Insights come from a deep understanding of customers.

An insight is an obvious, yet undiscovered perspective you have about your customers. Start with building customer empathy and use that empathy to synthesize customer information to develop insights. Build customer empathy by observing customers, reviewing customer data and then speaking to customers. Develop customer understanding from gathering, analysing and synthesising data. Look for connects that others have missed, look for surprises.

Customer centricity is a strategy that is devised on putting your customer first, and at the core of your business. Growth is commensurate with the intensity of customer centricity a company emanates. A company that truly embraces the corporate culture around its customer ensures that departments don’t operate in silos when it
comes to interpreting the data and the customer experience. In fact every individual at the company becomes a customer evangelist, striving to see things from the customer’s perspective, taking ownership of the ways that his/her work can directly or indirectly impact customers.

"Building growing businesses start with building awesome products and awesome products are built on the foundation of deep customer insights"

In today’s world, where customers have an unprecedented number of choices, would your customers choose your solution over your competitors? Assuming so, why would they choose your solution? In Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck, he touches upon the idea of Customer Benefit Metrics. Simply put, Customer Benefits are the reason your customers choose you over your competition. Define the Customer Benefits which your solution needs to deliver. Customer Benefit Metrics actively measure these customer benefits right from solution concept to get-ting your solution out to market. Factoring-in and delivering the customer benefit is a sure shot way of ensuring customer delight. When customers are delighted with your solution, they tell others. Word of Mouth is the best marketing tool!

Observing customers and having meaningful conversations with them is certainly an art that can be perfected with time. The more you do it the better you get. If you are curious and genuinely interested, it is easier than you think. Rather than introducing you to complex tools, I am going to share simple ways you can get started today:

• Out-of-the-Box Experience: The simplest form of understanding and empathising with the customer is to use your solution like your customers would. Note down all the challenges you think your customers would have and look at the solution from a customers’ use perspective. Needless to say, this method will bring in your biases and the knowledge you have which your customers’ may not have.

• Listen in on Customer Support Calls: Understand what your customers are calling in about. Mostly customers call you when they have tried all other ways of figuring it out themselves and failed. Focus not only on solving the problem, but analysing why they have the problem in the first place. What are they trying to do? Did your solution not anticipate the customer’s use case?

• Talk to Your Customers: Think through the questions you want to ask your customers and write them down ahead of time. Ask open ended questions that can lead to your customers telling your stories and events that help you get more context about your customers. Be curious and ask a lot of ‘Why’ questions.

• Observe Your Customers: Look at what they do, who they interact with and where they do work. Ifyou have a software solution with instrumentation, follow their use and see where they struggle, what the hot points are. If you have the luxury of mystery shopping (where you can pose as their customer and see how they do work) certainly do so and pay special attention to what they do and how they do it.

As you would imagine, there are several tools and techniques that can be used to more deeply understand customers and synthesize the information to arrive at deep insights. We’ll leave those for a later date. You can find a simple tool here to plan and debrief after a customer interaction. Building growing businesses start with building awesome products, and awesome products are built on the foundation of deep customer insights.