Success Monday: Six Ways to Discover What Your Customers Really Want

The end of the year offers everyone a chance to self-reflect on what they’ve been doing successfully in the past year and what they could improve upon in the coming year. Successful businesspeople know that good customer service is something that should never be overlooked or taken for granted. Here, James Baker, founder and CEO of Houston-based consulting firm Baker Communications, offers six tips to take into the new year on improving your customer relations.

“So tell me what you want, what you really, really want!”—The Spice Girls

Do you think you already know what your customers want from you and your organization? Does your company seem to operate on the assumption that all your customers’ concerns are being addressed, and their needs are being completely handled?

Many companies think they know what their customers want. The truth is, though, that customers operate in a different world—one we may or may not know all that much about. Their service concerns may not actually correspond with the ones we assume they have.

So how do we ensure that we are fully aware of—and answering—our customer’s real-life needs, and not just the ones we made up for them?

Keep track of customers’ behavior

The first thing you want to do is cultivate an awareness of what your customers are doing, what they are buying, and how they behave after sales and service interactions. If your company handles a customer service need, what do they do afterward? Do they return again with the same issue? Does that customer ever come back and buy from your company again? This kind of data can provide insight into where the customer service process is succeeding or failing, and whether customers are happy with the service they are receiving.

Follow up after service

When a customer has an issue, their primary concern is getting it fixed. They often have a secondary interest, however: having contact with someone in your organization who actually seems to care about the issue. Demonstrate that concern by following up after providing service. A brief phone call or email is usually sufficient; let the customer know you want to make sure their needs have been met. If so, they’ll likely be glad to tell you—and if not, you will gain both that insight and a chance to make it right.

Have a survey system in place

More in-depth than the follow-up call, a survey system can be used to check customers’ satisfaction levels with all aspects of service, from wait times to the attitude of the service provider to the efficacy of the solution. This is a fantastic way to collect data, assess CS, and find out where your gaps are.

Monitor online feedback

People talk about their experiences with companies, good and bad. In the age of social media and online reviews, word travels faster and farther than it once did. It’s critical to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to your company’s online reputation. Even a bad experience with a product can be redeemed with good service. There are ample opportunities to contact customers online and to follow what people are saying about your brand and your service.

Keep tabs on the competition

What are other players in your marketplace doing with their customers? Make sure you don’t fall behind the curve when it comes to providing thoughtful service. If the competition is moving to new customer service approaches and technologies, keep careful track of what it does for them, and consider whether to follow suit – or try to do even better.

Ask customers for input

The best way to find out what customers really want and need is to ask them! Cultivate relationships with customers and facilitate two-way communication about what they want from you. Even if you only have this kind of relationship with a few customers, they can still offer honest insight into the customer experience, and help you sanity-check your service approach.

James Baker is the founder and CEO of Houston-based Baker Communications. Founded in 1979, the sales, leadership and management consulting firm has trained more than 1.5 million individuals.