Articles / Identifying Customer Needs

Identifying Customer Needs

Man trying to identify key needs of his customers

When we think back to some of the great products we’ve all seen over the years, I’m sure many of us will have wondered how the ideas for these were first devised. And while many of us may have experienced a brainwave of our own at some time or another, these ideas are only any good if they’re able to meet a customer need that’s not already being met. So, what do we mean by customer needs exactly?

What are customer needs?

Customer needs refer to a customer’s motives for purchasing a product, brand or service, or alternatively the attributes of a product, brand or service that tempt them to buy. And it’s these customer needs that every business or organisation is striving to identify.

Types of customer needs

When it comes to customer needs, there are two main types to consider; internal and external:

Internal customer needs

When we are referring to internal customers, we’re essentially talking about the stakeholders that work within your organisation, namely your employees.

The needs of this internal audience group are reliant on the assistance they receive from other individuals or departments to complete their work.

For example, a marketing department typically has to liaise with then complete collateral for various departments within a company. These departments are essentially the marketing team’s own internal customers, and they need to provide a good service if they are to keep these audiences happy and retain their own jobs.

External customer needs

In contrast, your external customers are those people and businesses that pay for your products and services and not directly connected to your organisation.

Unlike internal customers that have no choice about who they have to work alongside, external customers have both a choice and influence over who they choose to liaise with and ultimately buy from.

For example, let’s say you were a support provider of IT services. Given the freedom an external customer has over partnering with you. Unless you’re consistently delivering timely, high-quality support, they may decide to take their business elsewhere.

That’s why it’s essential that you’re able to identify and best meet the needs of your customers.

Why is it important to understand customer needs?

The customer is at the heart of every successful business. So, the better you know and understand your customer needs, the more they’re likely to buy from you, the longer they will stay with you and the more successful you’ll be in attracting new customers.

By contrast, the less capable you are in meeting their needs, the more likely they’ll be to leave you for a competitor business.

How to identify customer needs

There are three key ways to better pinpoint the needs of your customers namely customer needs analysis, customer needs surveys and voice of the customer programs.

Customer needs analysis

Customer needs analysis is all about trying to identify the customer’s primary requirements for a product or service. Besides improving their understanding of customer requirements, customer needs analysis can help those running it to better identify their position in the overall market.

Armed with this information, manufacturers and providers will be better able to ensure that their product or service offers the benefits, attributes and features needed to provide the customer with value.

Customer needs surveys

For the best results customer needs analysis needs to be carried out by running customer needs surveys. These surveys can also help manufacturers and providers to better identify how well they stack up in terms of meeting their target customers’ needs.

Any survey should ask questions about your brand and competitors, as well as the customers’ product awareness and brand attitudes in general.

Questions can include:

  • Questions about positive and negative word associations with your brand
  • Questions where customers are asked to group your brand in with similar and/or competing brands
  • Questions where brands are compared and sorted according to their preferences for usage

To get more detailed customer feedback with regards to how customers feel about their experiences with your brand and what you can improve, you might want to run further customer surveys with them. In addition, more specialist surveys can help you decide on the best direction to take next.

For example, if you were to run a product survey, you could test different concepts with customers to better understand what they liked and disliked, to improve your next product launch.

Voice of the Customer programs

Research methods and techniques are improving all the time. And today market leading organisations are employing voice of the customer programmes to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs and requirements. This is also extremely valuable for those operating in highly competitive or crowded marketplaces, where customer experience (CX) is the key to driving greater sales.

The idea behind these programs, is that by running voice of the customer surveys throughout the customer journey, organisations will be better able to understand what matters most to customers and the exact actions they need to take to improve satisfaction, loyalty and maximise profitability.

From NPS surveys to CES and CSAT surveys. To maximise the success of your voice of the customer programs, it’s also vital to include these key CX metrics, to measure how your customers feel and be able to identify the exact improvements you need to make.

Questions to identify customer needs

Having defined customer needs, discussed their importance, outlined some types of customer need and how to identify them, you also have to think about the questions you’ll ask to get the data you need.

Obviously, your questions will vary a bit depending on your type of business and the products or services you’re providing. However, there are some broader questions you could consider, which will help you to better identify your customers’ needs across areas spanning their initial research, through to purchase and ongoing support.

1) What prompted you to visit our website?

2) Were you able to find what you were looking for easily and if not, what do you think we could improve?

3) On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 excellent, how would you rate your overall experience of our website today?

4) Is there anything that’s not on our website that you would like to see included and why?

5) What do you most like and dislike about our product?

6) Is there anything about it you think we could improve and why?

7) How was your purchasing experience with us and was there anything about it you think we could have improved?

8) Are you satisfied with your purchase and do you plan to buy more products from us in the future?

9) On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 excellent, how would you rate the quality of your customer service experience today?

10) How well did our support team understand your questions and concerns?

Anticipating customer needs

If you’re able to meet your customers’ needs, you’ll have a lot more satisfied customers. However, if they’re to keep returning to your business and stay with you for the long term, you’ll need to anticipate their future, as well as their existing needs.

This is where the benefit of surveys and more specialised ones such as product surveys comes in, as well as any additional sources of data you can uncover. A good example of this is the ongoing comments that you can glean from customer tickets to your customer service and support desk teams.

Ultimately, as long as you’re continually surveying your customers and collecting their data, you’ll be able to see and respond to developing patterns, making you even better at anticipating and meeting their future needs.

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