If you are in marketing, sales or research you have probably read an article, attended a seminar or talked to a colleague about “walking in your customer’s shoes”. How often do you really think about how the customer arrived at the point where they were ready to pay for a product or service? Why do they continue to buy goods or services from your company? What about the potential customers who were never to the point of that initial purchase? The catch-all phrase of “walking in their shoes” captures a lot of approaches and tools to better understand your customers and the reasons for their choices as it relates to your company’s products and services. Below is a list of a few common (and not so common) approaches to better understand your customers:
1- Create a Customer Journey Map – The act of making a purchase is both a financial and emotional transaction. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and experiencing the journey as they do, will help you to understand why they are frustrated, why they are happy, and why they might decide not to continue. Creating a positive experience will convert your prospects into real customers. If they find the journey too long, convoluted, or just plain painful, they are not likely to continue. It is not just the length of the journey that matters. Customer Journey Maps are useful for understanding and diagnosing experiences, designing new experiences and general communication improvements. There are some great resources available to help you with this process including a crash course guide by oracle and another great summary guide from the MMR Group.
2- Sit with Your Front-Line Employees – Once a month visit one of the company’s front line employees that are directly speaking with current customers about problems, issues or general educational support. Just an hour can bring a whole new perspective to who your current customers are and what some of their issues are (In their own words). Be sure to visit different customer touch points (call center, retail/service desk, etc) as each tends to serve customers at different points of the process.
3- Read What Your Target Customers Read – Read the key newspapers, magazines and blogs your target customers read. This not only gives you a better perspective of their point of view and opinions on hot topics, but it can also give a sense of key trends that may impact your product or service sales and retention efforts. If your company cannot supply what the target list of publications or blogs is – — just ask some of your best customers what they read on an ongoing basis.
4- Understand Customer Challenges With Key Communication Channels – There are some great tools to understand how customers engage with key company communication and transaction channels. Services like UserTesting.com provide fast feedback (in target customer’s words) on how they use your website or mobile app. It is a really valuable tool to understand what is working (and not working) for your website and mobile application channels.
5- Ask Why Past Prospects Did Not Buy From You – A great way to gain a better understanding of the weak points of your product or service is to ask past prospects why they did not buy from you. Although the approach may vary depending on the actual contact information available on past prospects, a quick and effective approach is to identify a target list of past prospects and call them. Ask why they had initially considered your product or service and why they decided to purchase from someone else (or not at all). This information has value for an organization both from a competitive positioning perspective as well as how to improve your customer journey experience.
By implementing these approaches you will identify approaches to meet and exceed customers’ expectations, differentiate yourself from competitors and drive long-term loyalty and customer value. Have any other approaches that are not listed above? Please share any other approaches with us below.