Five questions you need to ask your customers

Companies aren’t short of ideas. That’s not the problem most organisations are facing today. Walk into any boardroom and they’re brimming with ideas and innovations that will purportedly add zeros to the bottom line. The problem lies in actually working out what’s most important to their customers and what’s going to add value.

Organisations are acutely aware of their problems: they know they’re short on resources; they know they want to grow; they know they want alignment; they know they want a culture change; they know they’re losing customers. What they don’t know is “why?” In our increasingly complex world, where customers have greater power than ever before, the outdated model of delving straight into “how can we address these issues?” isn’t going to cut it.

It is time to start asking “why?” before “how”? Why do our customers feel like this? Why aren’t they buying as much? Why aren’t they doing all the things we expect and think logically they should do? The obvious starting point from there is research.

What you find in doing this is that consumers are irrational. Much research has been done on consumer decision making and behavioural economics. While consumers say their problem is in one area, the reality can be very different. While they say they’ll do one thing, in practice they do another. You ask a customer what they want and they might say “I want it cheaper” or “I want it faster” but when you dig a bit deeper, what they often want is for the process to be easier or simpler, or they just want you to return their phone call or call back when you promised to. This might sound simple, but it’s these “brilliant basics,” such as returning a customer’s call promptly, that can be addressed quickly and have a significant impact. It’s not as sexy as investing in a new app, but it is essential in this day and age to be continually investing in improving the baseline customer experience.

Here are five critical questions you need to be asking your customers:

1. If we disappeared tomorrow, what would you miss most?
Asking customers this question puts them in a mind-frame where they are able to quickly identify what they most value about your service.

2. What is the #1 problem we are solving for you?
The question is valuable in helping understand what your customers are connecting with in your business. Why have they chosen you?

3. Have they used a competing service, if so why?
If they hadn’t originally chosen you, what was the reasoning? Why and when might a competitor appeal to them?

4. What are we doing really well that we should never stop doing?
Beyond the basic service they are paying for, what else are they expecting? For example, if you are a phone company – beyond providing phone reception, what else do they expect from you?

5. What is the one thing we could improve and why?
You should be asking your customers this question frequently and appreciating their valuable feedback. If a customer has taken to a review site before contacting you directly, question whether you have been providing them ample opportunity to give feedback and have been ready to listen and respond.

These are just five examples, but questioning and engaging with your customers should be a core part of your business model if you wish to remain competitive in 2019 and beyond.

Damian Kernahan, Head of Experience Design and Founder, Proto Partners