The number one worry we hear from our clients today is this: “the business is moving so fast; sometimes I can’t keep up and I need to understand my customer better, but it’s getting harder, not easier.”
Why is this feeling becoming more omnipresent than ever?
- Customers are less loyal and far less trusting than they used to be. This is especially true in industries whose reputations suffered during the financial crisis—including banking, pharmaceuticals, energy, airlines and media. But even if you’re in an unrelated industry, you’re likely to feel some of the same effect.
- Consumers have more power than ever before, thanks to social media, easy on-line comparison-shopping, and a proliferation of choices.
- Customer diversity continues to increase, putting a premium on micro-segmentation and deep customer insight.
- By increasing the noise-to-data ratio, the data deluge occasioned by the Internet can actually make it harder to understand your customers.
- Economic uncertainty and data overload confuse customers as well, making them less interested in products than in flexible, adaptive solutions.
To get close to this more demanding customer, you really need to get inside his or her head. Here are four ways to do that:
- Stand in your customer’s shoes. The next time you have opine play going, whether it be the weekend or weekday, get a lane and two or three other people and bowl, listening to the people on either side of you.
- Try to understand your customer’s full range of choices, as well as his or her system of how they make their entertainment decisions This exercise will also deepen your understanding of competitors and help you better anticipate their moves.
- Attach yourself to a customer. Watch a customer come into the center, get a lane and begin to bowl. Jot down what they do; how they implement “their unique experience.” If you can’t exactly put yourself through a customer experience, try role-playing exercises at all points of the customer’s experience with your company.
- Lean forward and anticipate. Focus on what customers will want tomorrow, as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson did so exquisitely. Try to envision different futures and then explore how underlying market shifts may affect your customers. Try to set up and answer lots of “What If” questions.
Remember that sometimes you need to get out of your own way to really understand your customers.
Psychologists know, for example, that you’re likely to listen for problems that fit your own offerings, and to discount others. That can cause you to miss important opportunities, or to get blindsided later.
So, try to listen with a third ear what your customers are saying to you. If you can truly hear them, they’ll tell you all you need to know
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