With economic downturns and financial scandals, customers have become less loyal and trusting in recent years. They also have more power because of social media, customer diversity, number of choices and the availability of online comparisons. This means business owners have to work harder at gaining and maintaining customers. Instead of business as usual, it is important to understand your customers, see where they’re coming from and what they really need.
Paul J. H. Schoemaker, founder and chairman of Decision Strategies International, stated 5 ways that you can better understand your customers and see the world through their eyes.
1–Stand in Your Customer’s Shoes–Look beyond your business and see the full range of choices for your customers. Not only will this help you understand them, but it will also help you understand your competition.
2–Staple Yourself to a Customer’s Order–Walk yourself through your customer’s experience. Start at the very beginning and go through the entire process. Are there any areas where the experience breaks down? This is a common practice used to increase customer service. If you can’t actually walk through the system, try to role playing in order to get a better understanding of the customer’s experience.
3–Field Diverse Customer Teams— One way to understand your customers is to send teams made up of employees that don’t normally associate with customers and put them in direct contact with your customers. This way, they increase support and also get a better understanding of what the customer really wants.
4–Learn Together with Customers— By creating a situation where customers and local executives can learn side by side, you can gain greater understanding and appreciation on both sides of the scale. Consider inviting customers to leadership, innovation or training workshops and conferences, especially those that would be valuable to the customer.
5–Lean Forward and Anticipate–One thing that made businessmen, such as Steve Jobs, so successful is that they could anticipate what their customers’ would want and need in the future. Tools such as scenario planning can give you flexibility and help you anticipate market shifts, thus helping you fill future customer needs and desires.
As you understand your customers and see the world through their eyes, you will be able to learn what they really want and provide for their needs. This will help your business gain the right customers for your business–ones that will be loyal and keep coming back.