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An Evergreen Guidebook to Ascertaining Customer Needs

An Evergreen Guidebook to Ascertaining Customer Needs

logo Vivek Asrani
March 31, 2021 | 10 Min Read

Most of the time, businesses concentrate on innovations while failing to align their brand with customer needs.

However, stats prove that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that do not concentrate on customers.

Once a company starts being customer-focused, it can help cater to the market needs by comprehending customers in a much better way. Also, it allows you to align products and services by deriving great value from them.

Duh… But, you cannot persuade customers until you know what they are precisely looking for. Hence, ascertaining and meeting consumer needs should be the focal point of every business to build a solid customer base.

Once you are clear about the consumer buying process, this handy information can further decode consumer needs.

Before I move ahead with the effective methods to identify customer needs, let me first explain its definition and why it is essential for your business?

Let's get started.

What are Customer Needs and Why is it Important for Business?

understanding consumer needs
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In simple words, customer needs, also known as consumer needs, can be defined as the influential factors influencing your customers to purchase the product or service.

These are precisely the set of circumstances, desires, habits, and anxieties that potential customers have before considering purchasing your products or services.

When you perfectly decode customer needs, you know exactly what info can transform your potential customer into a paying customer.

It gives you the way to handle customer objections on the basis of price, quality, or shipping even before your customers address them.

However, if you think that decoding consumer needs is child's play, you are in for a rude shocker. In the real world, customers are rarely forthcoming about what they need. Hence, it becomes imperative for you to study the market needs first.

Sometimes a simple question can reveal a lot about the customer needs – people like fast shipping and competitive prices, and convenient customer service. And, they often like to do business with those that they want.

Other times it can be challenging to get the correct answers. A direct approach does not pay in such cases. During such times, you need to conduct market research by studying the market needs.

If you can get the answer to this question: What matters most to the customers? It can help your business function smoothly. The answer can be a mix of utilitarian (example, price, speed, and function) and emotional needs.

Now imagine what could happen if things go wrong? Hence, businesses must identify consumer needs. But still, here are some reasons that will make you understand the significance of identifying customer needs.

The more you learn about your customers, the better it will be to brand yourself around their needs. It will also help your business in the following ways.

Provide quicker solutions

One of the most important things that customers want in today’s competitive environment is real-time support. Once you start identifying their needs, you can provide an effective and quick solution to them. Isn’t that wonderful?

Enhance your products and services

By understanding the motives behind your customer’s buying behavior, you can learn quite a few areas that you might have been missing out on and create a compelling USP. You can employ the valuable insights you get to enhance your products and services to satisfy your customer needs.

Reduce the number of support queries

Once you build your products and services, keeping in mind the needs of your customers, it will lead to effective solutions that will reduce customer issues. 

Now that we have looked at the definition of customer needs and their importance for businesses, I will discuss the four primary customer needs in the next section.

So, without further ado, let's get started.

Four Main Customer Needs

Every business person wishes to become successful. And to do that, it is essential to identify and fulfill customer needs. Most of the time, the ideas that come to a business person are focused around the consumer buying process of identifying the product or service. There are primarily four primary customer needs that a business-person needs to consider. Here's a look at them.

Price

Price
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Price can be defined as the amount charged by a business for its products or services. Customers are looking for a fair price while purchasing a product or service. Although low prices can draw in lots of customers, most of them will not turn up during the consumer buying process because everyone wants value for money.

Hence, it is incredibly crucial for your product or service's price to match the offered quality. A prime example of that is that if I open a jewelry shop where I keep rare diamonds, customers will expect a high price. However, if a discount shop sells a brand of cake, customers may suspect the low cost associated with the cake as the barometer of inferior cake quality.

Product

Product
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Every customer expects an excellent and reliable quality product. As a business person, you would also like to create a well-rounded product that serves your customers' purpose.

So, the key thing is both you and the customers are looking for an excellent and quality product that serves their purpose.

Hence, there is no point in manufacturing a product that does not have any consumer demand. In short, your product needs to be the central point of focus during the consumer buying process.

Convenience

Easy
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Every day we see a new start-up coming up in the market with the promise to make the lives of their customers more convenient by understanding the market needs.

Millennials usually look for convenience in their day-to-day lives. And, the good thing is, they are willing to pay a reasonable price as long as their life, work, and play is made simpler.

Hence, as a businessman, you must create products and services that assist them and roll out your business in such a way that's very easy for them to access.

For example, enabling your customers to purchase your products and services through an app while relaxing on their couches. How convenient is that?

Service

customer service
Service

Excellent customer service is the key that enables businesses to sell more of their products and build long-term customer relationships. Customers are always happy to pay a premium price if it means it would improve customer service level. Here, the only thing that you need to contemplate hard on is how to provide customer value through quality service. Think of ways of exceeding your customer expectations.

By having a strong customer support team, you inculcate a feeling of trust in the customers' minds. They understand problems will be addressed and fixed promptly. They are also more receptive in case things end up being on the wrong side.

A good example is, giving rewards to customers in the form of loyalty points for frequently using the service. For example, when you fly an Emirates flight often, they reward you with points redeemed to get discounts on future travels. This is how you can build post-purchase goodwill.

Now that we have looked at the four main customer needs let's now divert our attention to the definition of customer needs analysis.

What is Customer Needs Analysis?

Customer Analysis
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In layman's language, customer needs analysis ascertains the product/service requirements of the target customers. In marketing, customer analysis is employed in many brands and product management contexts like product development, context development, customer value analysis, and means-end analysis.

The ultimate objective of such an engagement is to comprehend customer needs and their position in the overall market. Customer needs analysis is used as a business development tool and an invaluable analytical technique to gauge the better marketability of a product or service.

To successfully carry out customer needs analysis, you need the following:

  • Customer needs analysis survey
  • Means-end analysis
  • Customer feedback

Now that you have understood the concept of customer needs analysis, as promised, let's fast-track ourselves to the effective methods to identify customer needs.

9 Methods to Identify Customer Needs

As discussed earlier, identifying Consumer needs is not child's play. But, once you apply the methods that I have mentioned below, you will be surprised to discover that you already have a lot of info you require.

1. Customer Interviews

Customer Interviews
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Irrespective of whether you have started your business recently or are a veteran businessman, it is imperative for you to conduct regular customer interviews. With the help of such interviews, you may end up getting the voice of the customer.

Here's how you can make the most out of customer interviews.

  • Ask the right questions, and you will end up capturing the most desired outcomes from a customer
  • Focus your questions on outcomes instead of mere features of your products or services; you can assess a customer's social and emotional needs on top of functional needs.
  • Whenever you are in doubt, the simplest way is to pass the bucket to the customer by asking them directly what they want.

2. Behavior Observation

Observation
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Apart from reflecting on your own experiences, it would help if you keenly observed the behaviors of those around you. If possible, try to search for opportunities to observe people at each stage of the buying process. Observe the way people use the product or service to decode the exact goals they wish to accomplish using it.

Alternatively, you can even look for the challenges that the product or service helps to avoid. Try to find out compensating behaviors or actions that people typically take when they cannot find the product or service they want to fulfill their needs. 

Comprehending the difficulties they face while inconveniently using the alternative can help you identify an untapped product or service in the market and create inspirational ideas to satisfy their needs.

3. Spending habits

Spending habbits
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Different types of customers have different spending habits. Find out about their spending capacity and spending habits that they might have.

Here, I would suggest you look at their average household income and the portion of the income they are willing to spend on the types of product or service you sell.

Once you know how your customers like to spend and how often, it will become easier for you to devise a strategy according to their spending habits. In case you find that your customers predominantly consist of big spenders, producing more products with lower production quality might be a good alternative. 

Whereas thriftier customers are more likely to make a single big purchase on a high-quality product than buying on a frequent basis. So, in that case, you need to go after quality instead of quantity. 

4. Voice of Customer Surveys

Voice of the Customer and Net Promoter Score
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Voice of Customer surveys accumulates data from email or a pop-up on a website about existing or prospective customers' attitudes and expectations. You can experiment with a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to see what works best to get the customers' information.

Even though it's true that decoding the customer needs is pretty tough, this type of survey often yields data that helps you discern customer goals, challenges, problems, and attitudes. You can then recommend the opportunities for improvements based on their feedback.

5. Existing customer base

customer base
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Interviewing your existing customer base can help you get comprehensive information about them. Albeit, you need to spend some time doing it! A better way is to send surveys to your existing customer base to identify the customer needs.

Such surveys enable you to accumulate a vast amount of data from a large portion of your customer base. This way, you can ascertain common recurring problems and find patterns amongst your customers. While creating your surveys, I would suggest you go for a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions. 

6. Follow Me Home Research 

Certain companies opt for this particular method while identifying customer needs. Under this method, the companies observe their existing customers' feedback about their products. The idea is to get feedback from the customers while they are using the product at their homes.

With the help of this method, companies can comprehend:

  • The exact way customers feel about their product/service
  • The reason due to which a particular customer uses their product/service
  • The challenges that the customer face
  • The competitive dynamics involved
  • The growth gaps in the product/service

On the basis of the feedback received from the customer, you can make necessary amendments to your products/services.

7. Interaction with Staff

Staff Interaction
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There are times when your staff learns a lot more about your customers through direct interaction. Due to this very reason, they probably have a little more information about your customer needs.

Suppose customers in the past might have made your staff aware of any compliments while using your product/service. This is where you can directly approach the employees and try to ascertain any patterns in the complaints.

While patterns tell a story of their own, it's equally important not to ignore the one-off complaints. These can also give you valuable insights into the needs of your customers.

8. Anticipating future needs

Anticipating future needs
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Once your business has started to understand your customer base better, the next step is to take the necessary risk and anticipate what your customers will still want from your product or service in the future.

Now stop for a minute and think hard about your future initiatives and how your present customers fit into them. It’s important for you to take into account the views of your current customer base. 

Never overhaul your current customer base as they’re the sole source of your income.Do not leave them behind for the new customers. 

Remember that alienating your current customers can become a negative strategy that can dramatically impact your new business. Try to find out ways to include them in the new equation.

This is where the technology industry wins, hands down. The number of mobile applications that are being developed so rapidly using customer input to solve everyday problems is the evidence. 

Your current customers might provide an even positive impetus to the new products than the new customers waiting at the doorsteps.

Although your customers may not tell you precisely what they need, they can show you with their behavior if you pay attention to them.

9. Competition Analysis

Anticipating future needs
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I would recommend you to take help from research firms having an objective view of your customers' needs. They might go for SWOT analysis and try to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your competitors. You can even go for a SWOT for your specific product, brand, or even an experience.

Always define the competition both narrowly and broadly. Never make the mistake of looking at your competition in the same industry. Always go for other sectors too to have a better idea of your customer needs.

Concluding Thoughts

Although when you start to apply these methods to identify customer needs, they might seem tricky. But, always keep a positive mind frame and go till the very end. This way, you will get to the holy grail of practically applying the various methods to identifying customer needs. Who knows, you might even master this trick forever! Voila!!!

For more such interesting content on customer experience, keep following this section.

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