Don’t Guess What Your Customer Is Thinking

March 4th, 2016 by Kathy

Not too long ago I was at the gym getting ready for the day. I did what I always do… I tore off a long piece of paper towel, placed it on the counter and set my makeup bag on top of it. A woman from the cleaning staff saw me do this and said,

‘Oh, how thoughtful – most people just get makeup all over the counter!

Hmmm. I just smiled. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she had it backwards! The reason I put toweling under my bag was not to keep the counter clean, but to keep the dirt on the counter from getting on my bag.

The point of my story is that it’s critically important to not make assumptions about your customers. If you don’t know what your customers think, what their assumptions are, or why they behave the way they do – you’re more or less guessing.

As you prepare to talk with your customers, here are some things to think about:

  • It’s important to clearly define your goals. Think about the actions that will be taken based on what you learn. Do you want to acquire new customers? Market to a new audience? Increase satisfaction? The answers to these questions will help establish the topics you’ll want to cover and focus the questions you’ll want to ask.
  • Consider enlisting a third party to conduct the discussions on your behalf. Talking with a neutral party can help customers feel more comfortable and encourage their frank feedback. Look for a research partner that offers a collaborative approach to ensure the results meet your goals.
  • Reaching out and scheduling your conversations can take more time than you think. While most people are happy to comply – after all who doesn’t like to be asked what they think – they’ll need time to respond and participate at their convenience.
  • You’re going to want to create a discussion guide. It should include sample questions for each of the topics being investigated. As the name implies – the guide should be used as a framework for the conversation not as a script to be read word-for-word. And as an added benefit, the process of discussing and revising the guide can ensure that stakeholders are on the same page with respect to the information being collected.