What’s the difference between a business that succeeds and one that doesn’t?
How it listens to its customers.
“But what if it hasn’t got any customers?”, I hear you ask.
How it listens to those that want to buy from it.
The only value you provide is that which your customers perceive.
So how can I find out what my customers think of me?
There’s nothing wrong with creating ideal client avatars or profiles. they’re essential even – but they’re also a fantasy. If you rely solely on them, it would be easy to come up with a person that is so perfect, they don’t exist.
You need to get talking to people.
That’s where “voice of customer research” comes in. It’ll help you:
- Spot the early warning signs of something going wrong.
- Test new ideas.
- And above all, see how you’re doing and how much your customers could be your advocates.
How do I “do” voice of customer research
Start with surveys
Whatever type of business you are, however many customers you have or however big your list is, you can send a survey.
I sent one recently for a client to 15 people.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, no more than 7 or 8 questions and sites like Typeform or Survey Monkey will let you do it for free.
Think about the questions you want to ask:
- “Why did you come to us?”
- “What problems did you have?”
- “What else could we do for you?”
There’s gold in them responses.
Interview your prospects and customers
One of your survey questions should be “would you like to be interviewed about this?”. People love to talk about themselves, and a number of those that respond will say “yes”.
Don’t overcomplicate things. A quick 15-20 minute call asking the same questions as the survey will be great. Record it (and tell the interviewee) you are doing so then get it transcribed, you’ll find stuff you can use in your marketing later.
Monitor social media
Yes, social media is a lot of noise. Yes, social media is full of worthless opinions by a bunch of no-nothings. Yes, social media is full of cat videos.
But your customers and your prospects are also on there between the noise, the obnoxious opinions and cats. They comment and talk about their problems.
Set up automatic searches with keywords that are important to your business to tap into conversations (and arguments) and use a tool like Evernote to capture everything they say.
It’ll be a great way to look for trends and extract stories that may be invaluable to you later.
Mine information from reviews and forums.
This one is underused, and people are surprised when I tell them.
The internet is a place where people express opinions (who knew?), and those opinions will be useful to you (I use this all the time.
Start with Amazon because it has millions of reviews of books that deal with the kind of problems your customers and prospects face. Spend a morning or an afternoon on it, use Evernote, a spreadsheet or a word processing document to compile everything you see about your prospects’ problems. Be careful not to read too many 5-star or 1-stare reviews – a higher proportion of them are fake. It will open your eyes, and your copy will write itself.
You can use any sites where people have opinions for this – Trip Advisor, Trust Pilot or Yelp – are all excellent examples.
Then you have forums.
You can go down the rabbit hole that is Reddit because parts of it are not madhouses. If you’re absolutely fearless (in the UK) and please do not comment, there’s always Mumsnet.
Specialist forums are particularly helpful. I spent many a happy hour recently on one frequented by accountants. It was a revelation.
Get a feedback form
If you sell physical products, there’s no real way around this.
Allowing your customers to tell you what they think as they buy or soon after may well be a salutary experience but one which will benefit you no end.
Live chat has become almost compulsory. I was on a site yesterday sorting out a problem, and it was invaluable.
According to a report by Forrester, 44% of customers said that the opportunity to have questions answered by a real person was one of the most important features a website could offer and helped smooth the buying process.
But it’s not just for buying. Customer support and customer enquiries will be just as enlightening. In fact, when they are protected by a computer screen and a keyboard, people will be a lot more candid. Capture that information!
And finally, face-to-face meetings
If you meet your customers and prospects in real life, make sure you listen to what they say.
You can run focus groups, but more intimate one-to-one meetings are equally important.
A combination of some or all of these techniques will give you a store of information that will probably mean the difference between growing and not growing.
For many small businesses, it’s too much effort, they say they haven’t got the time or the resources, or they don’t know how to.
You have an opportunity to be different. Listen to your customers. No, really, listen to them. They’ll love you for it.