Eight proven ways to get close to your customers and find out what they value, what they care about, what they really want.
1. Ask them! Whether in print, in person or over the phone, nothing beats asking customers exactly what they want, and how they want it, Ask them what they don’t want, too! Use printed sheets, mail-back forms, comment cards, telephone scripts and more.
2. Conduct focus groups. Bring a group of customers together for an open-ended chat session. Set them at ease and get them talking about what they really like, don’t like and wish they could get from your business. Don’t defend, justify or argue. Just ask questions and take good notes. Follow up with a sincere and generous ‘Thank you!’
3. Study complaints and compliments. Every message from a customer brings value to your doorstep. Compliments show you what to reinforce. Complaints point to new ideas and action steps for improvement.
4. Set up a customer hotline. Some customers will tell you what they think, but they want an ‘anonymous’ way to do it. Fine! Set up a special voice recording ‘hotline’ for customers only. And don’t worry about receiving any strange messages; just sort through them for the gems!
5. Hire a Mystery Shopper. Have someone you trust mingle with your customers and strike up conversation to find out what they do and do not like.
6. Become a customer of your best competitors. Use all their products and services, and compare them to your own. Ask their Customer Service Center to describe all the services available in detail. Then copy the best and do better than the rest.
7. Visit your customer’s site. Go to your customer’s physical location to see exactly how they put your products and services to use. See with your own eyes what works and what doesn’t, what gets used all the time and what gets left behind.
8. Go online to seek more feedback. Find an Internet user’s group related to your industry or topic. Read the postings for new ideas and information. Participate in the discussions. Follow up by e-mail to gain even deeper input and understanding.