Guest post by Lexie Lu.
Gaining recognition for your brand is a big task. Not only do you have to tie marketing into branding, but you also have to consider every aspect of your reputation in order to manage the way people remember your company. Figuring out what your customers need is one of the strongest ways to steer your brand reputation and grow your company.
About 62 percent of brands state they see the customer experience (CX) as something that differentiates them from their competitors. Meeting customer needs is just one way to enhance the overall CX. Here are nine ways you can figure out what your customer needs are and steer brand image:
1. Ask the Right Questions
Take the time to not only ask questions about your customer needs, but also ask the right questions. Don’t just ask, “What do you need?” Ask, “What problem do you have?” Once you understand the problems your customers face, you’ll be able to come up with solutions. You can also ask more pointed questions, such as what else they’ve tried already to solve the problem. This will tell you what not to provide as well as what you need to offer customers.
2. Study Past Behavior
Take the time to look at patterns in overall customer behavior. Does business pick up every autumn? What items are your customers ordering in the fall and how can you offer even better solutions in these categories? Studying past behavior allows you to stock the inventory you need to get orders out quickly. Customers tend to wait until the last minute to order what they need, so if you can get their order out the door quickly, you’ve met a need that will establish your reputation as a brand.
3. Offer Automation With a Human Touch
The world seems to almost run on autopilot these days. If you go online, you’re as likely to chat with a bot as a real person. If you make a phone call, a computer will guide you to the correct department. However, this is also quite frustrating for consumers, as the answers may not be personalized.
Make sure you offer the ability for the customer to talk to a real person at any point in the process if automation fails. Every scenario is different, so it’s vital that consumers can talk to a human being and get the answers or service they need.
4. Map the Customer Process
One of the best ways to identify problem areas and meet a need is to map the customer’s process. One example of this is Uber. Before Uber came into being, the customer had to call for or hail a taxi. The customer was unsure when the cab driver might arrive and then had to go through the process of paying the driver.
With services such as Uber, the entire process is simplified and the consumer is given the information up front. The rate is provided for the ride, an estimate of when the driver will arrive is given and payment is made automatically — all through an app. This is a brilliant example of refining a process so the consumer’s needs are met and exceeded.
Your job as a company is to simplify the process for your customers. Take the time to map the typical journey from need to order fulfillment and figure out how to make the process easier or keep the customer more informed.
5. Read Your Own Reviews
Have you ever taken the time to hunt for reviews and complaints against your company? If not, it’s a good exercise for a few reasons. First, it allows you to directly address unhappy customers and try to rectify things. Second, it gives you a lot of insight into where you are failing as a company, even if just for that one customer. This is a great first step in better meeting customer needs.
6. Buy From Your Competitor
Do you have a competitor who sells a similar product? Become their customer. Go through the ordering process and see what it’s like. Pay close attention to the things you like and the things you hate. How can you improve on what they do and better meet your customers’ needs? Obviously, you don’t want to copy your competitor. You’re simply gathering information so you can do this better than they do.
7. Test Focus Groups
Take the time to set up some focus groups and figure out what is working with your product and what could be made better. There are any number of companies that offer this service and can help you find the exact target audience you want to improve your brand and overall image. At the end of the day, the value the consumer receives for the product they purchase is the most important factor involved in meeting your customers’ needs.
8. Offer Value
Have you ever purchased an item thinking it’s going to solve a problem, but then been sorely disappointed in the results? Whether you bought a late-night infomercial boiled egg maker or those knives that were supposed to cut through anything, you likely never purchased anything from that company again. That’s the last thing you want if you’re trying to grow a brand. Instead, you want customers who not only repeatedly buy from you, but also tell their family and friends how great your product is.
The only way to offer value is to make sure your product is high quality and does what you promise. Extensive testing and checking in with customers after they purchase your product are great ways to ensure this. You may want to offer a warranty of some type, too. That forces you to live up to your promises and motivates you to create a quality product.
9. Prepare Your Sales Force
There are some specific things the upper 1 percent of salespeople do, including doing research and preparing for client meetings. Your sales team should be so well trained that they can answer any question the consumer has. On top of that, they should know which products and services will work best in a wide variety of situations, so they can point the customer to the best solution for their needs.
Your Customers Are Your Reputation
What other people hear about your brand is most likely to come from your current customers. Figuring out the best ways to meet their specific needs grows your brand’s reputation in a positive way. Take the time to get to know your target audience and what they require. Once you know their needs, you can meet and hopefully exceed them.
Lexie is a UX designer and software prototyping enthusiast. Most of her mornings are spent writing HTML code with a large cup of coffee in close proximity. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.