Don’t miss the obvious signs, or the more subtle cluesA new guide from Cake & Arrow provides tips for helping you decide if it’s time to check in with your customers and some ideas for how you can conduct DIY customer research and turn what you learn into actionable insights.
No matter what kind of business problems you are currently trying to solve– improving employee experience and hiring and retaining new talent, modernizing legacy systems and digital experiences, or exploring new products and distribution channels – research can play an invaluable role in ensuring your business is, and remains, closely aligned with customer and/or employee needs.
How To Check In With Your Customers
It’s never too soon to start learning more about your customers. DIY customer research can be an energizing, inspiring first step to help your team move past outdated assumptions—and it’s easy to get started. Here’s how:
Schedule Some One-On-One Time
Do you know how changes to your business or external conditions are impacting your customers? A quick round of interviews with representative customers or prospects can help you better understand what matters most—and identify where you may need to dive deeper.
- Start small—you can learn a lot from as few as 5 interviews. Really!
- No budget for recruiting? Tap your network—you’ll be surprised to see who you know, and how willing they are to talk (and a $50 gift card doesn’t hurt).
- Ask customers open ended questions about their lives, how they spend their days, their hopes, their worries, etc. before you talk about their experiences as a customer.
Watch And Learn
Is your customer experience falling flat? You can check your analytics to see where in the journey activity drops off—but watching users interact live can show you why there’s a problem, not just when and where it happens.
- Observe shoppers in-store. Shadow an agent. Listen in on sales calls. Use remote video to watch an online interaction.
- Whatever the context, note hesitations, work-arounds, and areas of interest.
- Ask “why” in the moment.
Get A Gut Check On A New Idea
Do you have an idea for a new product, feature, experience? Don’t wait for the pilot, or even a prototype—externalize your idea and show someone now!
- Sketch an app screen or two, write up a hypothetical press release, or even just rough out an elevator pitch to help make your idea tangible enough to evaluate.
- Get your vision in front of 5 or 6 customers for a quick gut check, or field a simple survey to gauge interest.
- Quickly see what’s working, start identifying potential customer segments, and get direction to further refine your vision.
How To Make Customer Research Actionable
Transform your customer research findings into synthesized views that can help your team align and rally around customer needs and contexts. Keep your customer in focus and make decisions that help them, and your business, thrive.
Jump Into Their Shoes
Gather the team to unpack your findings and document your shared understanding of your customer’s mindset. You may be surprised to see how much you already know.
- Based on all you’ve learned, imagine how your customer might experience a scenario related to your business (renewal, comparison shopping, etc.).
- Take time to articulate what your customers specifically think, feel, do, say, see, and
hear as it relates to your business.
- Make your empathy map a living document, adding insights as you learn more.
- Use this snapshot of your customer’s mindset to keep their needs top of mind.
Track Their Path
Plot the phases of your customers’ experience to understand their actions and motivations, and to identify opportunities for optimization and innovation.
- Name your phases. Go beyond the narrow marketing funnel journey to map broader customer contexts understand where they’ve been and where they’re headed next.
- Identify the touchpoints, resources, inputs, and influences your customers encounter at each stage.
- Track pain points and positive outcomes use the map to locate places to improve an experience or invent something new.
Make Them Real
Help your team keep your customers alive and top of mind by creating a realistic and easy-to-reference composite proxy.
- Research first! Personas based on old assumptions won’t help.
- Take the top insights, needs, and motivators you learned about your customer and create a one-sheet reference.
- Put it up on your wall to help you and your team remember for whom you’re in business
Ready To Dig Deeper?
Talk through what you’ve uncovered with a user-centered design partner like Cake & Arrow. An outside perspective can help you plan your next research study or apply your insights to enhance your customer experience, and boost your business.
Great article and call to action! Our experience working with advisors across the industry tells us that a robust, regular and organized system for reaching out to clients regularly can keep everybody – clients, staffs and owners much happier in the long run. – Bill Rambo