As children, many of us imagined a world where we could read minds. We wanted to know what our friends, teachers and parents were really thinking.
That would’ve been fun, but now, you probably have a much more realistic application for this fantastical scenario: diving deep into the psyche of your customer base. What makes them go searching for your services? How do they decide they’re ready to purchase?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a Magic 8 Ball to guide you as a business leader. But there’s still immense value in using other foretelling techniques to get to know the people you serve.
Let’s talk about how to gather data about your existing and future customers to better direct the customer journey, increase recurring revenue and build a strong brand presence for the long term.
In everyday conversations, it’s helpful to stay aware that people aren’t always saying everything they mean. Professional interactions tend to be even more buttoned-up. Your clients aren’t going to reveal their entire hand in real time, and maybe not even in retrospect. It’s your job to listen between the lines.
Example: You run an architecture firm that’s designing office space for a new client. They’ve expressed a desire for an avant-garde, open concept. Yet, you know they have a large and busy team that spends a lot of time on client calls. These two priorities will likely compete, and the type of space they envision could fight against their productivity goals.
Balancing your clients’ wants with the needs they may not be able to articulate is a delicate art. With creativity and intention, you can create a strategy for uncovering pain points rather than just preferences.
3 tips to identify the top needs of your customers
When you’re skilled at decoding your customer feedback and paying attention to what people aren’t saying, your business can reap major rewards.
Anticipating needs does more than improve customer satisfaction; it lays a foundation for implementing and adapting your business strategy.
Every customer interaction, be it a query, complaint or routine call, carries a wealth of information. Anticipating customer needs is largely about being ready to respond to a problem at any moment. To do this, you’ll need to synthesize three approaches: observation, data analysis and cultural focus.
First, watch for patterns in customer behavior. Do you tend to receive the same kinds of requests around the same time in a project lifecycle? Are clients confused about the instructions for how to pay an invoice? If you detect snags in processes early, you can keep small hiccups from turning into widespread problems.
It’s also helpful to examine metrics for different segments of customers or projects. For example, your management consulting firm might be seeing lower retention rates with clients of a smaller size. There could be opportunities to train your team on customer support principles that are better suited to small businesses. Use a CRM with detailed reporting that can help you identify trends.
Above all, you should adopt a client-centric company culture. If your client-facing teams or employees are the only ones thinking about meeting customer needs, there will be a disjointed feel to your operations as a whole. Predicting what you’ll have to provide to clients next is an organization-wide task that begins with lead management and never ends.
Remember: It’s possible that the people you currently serve aren’t representative of the people you’d best serve. Instead of considering today’s customer preferences to be the rule, stay open to change.
The shifting sands of the market are tough enough to keep up with. Add unique customer needs to the equation and agility can seem truly out of reach. But, believe it or not, it can be enjoyable to interact with your clients with their future needs in mind.
Each person who walks through your door or interacts with your business digitally brings with them a set of expectations. Think of it as a game to figure out what they are and build a strong, enduring customer relationship around them.
Luckily, individual customer needs are often in alignment with industry shifts. The most successful businesses are those that respond to larger needs and create demand for the new products and services they dream up in response.
Example: When the work-from-home wave began, some IT businesses were positioned to start offering cloud migration and support to existing clients. Those who acted quickly anticipated needs that the clients may not have been able to articulate and, in turn, kept their firms relevant and indispensable.
Sometimes, you just need a fresh idea for how to interact with your clients in the ways they’ll appreciate most. Modern content marketing presents unlimited opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Stand out with these tips.
One last thought as you move forward: In the process of anticipating customer needs, don’t stray from your core values — keep it real.