Pssst…I’m going to let you in on a little secret: In order to provide top-notch service to your customers, you need to know as much as you possibly can about them.
Okay, okay…I might as well have told you that grass is green, or ice cream tastes good.
The problem is:
You’re at a loss as to how to actually gather the information you need to truly enhance your customer’s experience with your brand.
Sure, you might have a general idea of who your customers are, and you understand what they’re looking to get from engaging with your company.
But, you know you’re barely even scratching the surface with this info. You know you could do much more for your patrons if you were able to dig deeper into who they are not just as consumers, but as people.
Still, you may be hesitant to venture into uncovering such intimate, personal information. And with good reason: you’d rather work with what you’ve got than risk alienating the people you care so deeply about.
The truth is, though:
Most customers want you to dig into their personal information (in a legitimate, non-creepy way, of course). Case in point:
- 58% of consumers will share their personal information in order to receive a better overall experience from a brand
- 60% of consumers will share this info to enable companies to send them tailored content and relevant offers
- 60% of consumers also will share their personal data to make for a more streamlined shopping experience
So, now that the importance of truly getting to know your customers is clear, the question remains:
How do you go about learning as much as you can about your customers?
As you may have guessed, the following article will dig into just that. We’ll discuss some of the most effective ways of connecting with your customers in both structured and unstructured settings – both on- and offline – and discuss some ways in which to make the process of uncovering this valuable information comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your customers.
So, let’s get started.
Four Ways to Get More Information From Your Customers
In this section, we’re going to talk about how you can gather information on your customers by:
- Soliciting feedback
- Creating a social community
- Creating and attending industry-related events
- Thinking outside your industry
While some of these tactics might not seem all that earth-shattering, such initiatives can be completely ineffective if gone about the wrong way. That being said, we’ll explain some of the “dos and don’ts” pertaining to these strategies, and provide some examples of companies that have implemented the strategies to perfection.
Let’s start with perhaps the most obvious method for gathering customer information: Asking them for it.
Talk about a forehead-slapper.
I mean, it sounds pretty cut-and-dried: You want more information from your customers? Ask them for it!
Like I said, this “revelation” probably isn’t news to you. Chances are, you already solicit feedback from your customers via such methods as surveys, product reviews, and usability tests or focus groups.
But, even if you are using these strategies, you might not be getting near as much value from them as you could be.
For one thing, if your response or participation rate for these initiatives is rather low, you’re inherently going to miss out on a whole bunch of data regarding a large percentage of your customer base. Unfortunately, survey response rates for B2C companies typically hover around the 15% mark as it is – meaning you’re working against the grain from the get-go.
Additionally, the information your customers do provide may not be as accurate as you’d think. Response bias is all too real – and may come about due to the way in which you present your questions, and factors on your customers’ end, as well.
What all this means is that you can’t simply send out a customer satisfaction survey, solicit volunteers for product testing, or do any sort of feedback-related outreach and just assume that you’re going to be getting some valuable information in return. To ensure the data you collect is actually valuable and usable, you need to develop these initiatives with your customers in mind.
First and foremost, you need your customers to understand exactly why you’re asking them to provide the information in question – “exactly” being the key word to pay attention to.
Your customers will assume the reason you’ve sent out a survey is to “improve the customer experience” – so give them more to work with. For example, you might explain that your goal is to streamline the checkout process, or to provide more accurate product recommendations. Not only will this give your customers a more tangible reason for completing the task at hand, but it will also allow you to focus on specific initiatives moving forward.
Secondly, you’ll want to ensure your customers can make sense of what’s asked of them, and are able to complete the task as accurately and honestly as possible. The more straightforward your instructions, the more reliable your customers’ responses will be.
So, like we said:
Though it may seem rather simple to “just ask” your customers for their thoughts and feedback, you need to be strategic when doing so; otherwise, you might end up collecting a bunch of data that isn’t nearly as valuable as it seems.
Create a Social Community
We’ve talked before about the importance of creating a community among your customer base, and the many ways your company can benefit from doing so.
While focused on gathering info from your customers, the benefits of creating a community are probably pretty obvious. By undertaking initiatives such as creating private groups on social media or generating discussion within the comments section of a blog, you’ll easily be able to gain insight into your customers’ thoughts, ideas, interests, and needs.
As mentioned above, one of the best ways to create a community is to invite your customers to join a private social media group maintained by your company. Within such a group, you’ll be able to facilitate discussion in both structured and unstructured ways. For example, take a look at the following screenshots:
Both of these images are of posts from freelance writer Jorden Roper’s private Facebook group, Writing Revolters. In the first example, Jorden herself posted a prompt for the community to engage with – facilitating discussion in the process. The second screenshot is an example of the user-generated content that the group’s members create on a daily basis – which also tends to generate a ton of conversations in the comments section.
Now, although Jorden’s main goal for creating the group is to give fledgling freelancers a place to gain knowledge and find camaraderie, she’s undoubtedly been able to collect a ton of information about her fans by analyzing the discussions that take place within the community. In turn, she’s been able to create a number of courses, ebooks, and other products focused specifically on addressing these needs – all but ensuring the products she creates are well-received by her potential customers.
The takeaway here is that, in addition to overtly soliciting information from your customers, you can also benefit from simply providing them a platform with which to make their voices heard – and listening to what they have to say.
Attend (and Host) Industry Events
Going along with the previous section, you stand to learn a lot about your customers by both attending industry-related events and hosting your own special occassions.
Think about it:
The vast majority of people who attend industry-related events are almost certainly fanatical about the industry in question.
(Take ComicCon, for example; it’s safe to say that the guy dressed as Wolverine who traveled five hours to attend the convention knows way more about Marvel comics than the average reader/moviegoer. It’s also safe to say, then, that this person’s opinions and ideas regarding the comic book industry will likely be more insightful, valid, and valuable in your eyes than those of the guy who saw Fantastic Four once a year ago.)
As is the case when creating an online community of fans and customers, industry events can provide an opportunity for you to engage with your following in both structured and unstructured settings. For example, you can gather information about your customers by paying attention to the questions attendees ask during presentations – and you can also join in the more candid conversations that occur between presentations.
Additionally, by attending industry events as an individual (rather than as a representative of your company), you’ll be able to approach interactions and engagements with other attendees from a different perspective – in turn allowing you to elicit information you may not have otherwise gleaned from them. In other words, because you’ll be on “equal ground” with fans of your industry, they may be more apt to candidly share information than they would, say, on a customer feedback form.
Now, you can also gather information about your customers by putting on your own events, as well.
While doing so won’t allow you to approach attendees on the aforementioned “equal ground,” you’ll still be able to gather insight into their needs and desires via the numerous interactions you’ll have with them throughout the event.
Additionally, because you’re, of course, in charge of what goes on during your event, you can steer discussions and engagements based on what you’re trying to discover about your customers. For example, if you’re currently preparing to begin developing a new product, you might facilitate a Q&A session based around the pain points your customers currently face relating to your realm of expertise. You’ll then be able to use the information you glean to fine-tune the development of your product.
(Source / Marketing and sales consultants stand to learn a lot about the people attending these sessions.)
While putting on and attending industry-related events is typically done for promotional reasons, it’s important to realize that such events are a great way to collect additional information about your industry’s most dedicated fans and customers. Keep your ears open during such events – you never know what you might learn.
So far, we’ve mainly discussed getting to know your customers just as they relate to your company and your industry.
While this should definitely be your main focus, it can also be incredibly beneficial to learn about your customers as they exist in the real world – as people.
Take, for example, marketer Gregory Ciotti’s account of the time he received a package of his favorite beef jerky in the mail…from a SaaS company that has absolutely nothing to do with dried meats:
“I had briefly mentioned on Twitter that quality beef jerky was putting a dent in my wallet…It’s really astounding that their marketing strategist Harvey Rañola would remember something like that, and I think it serves as a great example of how far some companies will go to make sure people feel welcomed.”
In this instance, Rañola went out of his way to look into Ciotti’s social profiles to see if he could dig up information regarding Ciotti’s hobbies or interests – and sent out a surprise gift that went above and beyond the customer’s expectations. To be clear, Rañola wasn’t “spying” or intruding on Ciotti’s private life; after connecting with him via Twitter, Rañola decided to check out Ciotti’s profile through a personal lens, rather than from a “strictly business” perspective.
In the above example, Rañola had simply found information that Ciotti had already put “out there.” But it’s also possible to get your customers to share new information about their personal life through similar means, as well.
Revisiting the concept of creating a private group for your followers to join on the web, you might consider creating a virtual “watercooler” area of the site, in which your fans (and your team) can interact and discuss topics that have little (if anything) to do with your industry. This is where they can talk sports, TV, hobbies, and whatever else they feel like discussing.
Similarly, you’d want to keep your eyes and ears open during breaks at industry events (such as for lunch, or during cocktail hour). After a long day full of nothing but industry-related news, tips, and jargon, most event-goers will talk about anything but business during such downtime – meaning it’s the perfect time to learn more about other areas of their lives.
While learning more about your customers’ personal lives might not do much for your company in terms of improving your products or services, the insight you glean can certainly help you tailor your approach to marketing and engaging with your followers. And, as our beef jerky story proves, digging deep into your customers’ personal interests can definitely help you stand out above your competition.
As we said in the intro:
For the most part, today’s consumers are more than happy to share their personal information with you – as long as you use it to improve their experience when engaging with your brand.
Whether you’re directly soliciting this information via questionnaires or surveys, or eliciting it by providing a communal platform for your customers, remember that everything your customers say can prove to be valuable to your company in one way or another. You never know when you might overhear something that could lead to the “a-ha” moment that changes the course of your organization and enables you to revolutionize your industry.
Keep your ears open.