Understanding Customers – Beyond the Analytics

Guest Blogger Jeannie Walters

By: Jeannie Walters

January 17, 2017

Clarabridge Analytics
Clarabridge Engage
Customer Experience
Customer Engagement
Customer Feedback Management

CEO and Founder of 360Connext

Understanding customers is a tricky thing and will continue to be. You know why? Customers, prospects and all of us share a uniquely tricky trait – we’re human!

Humans are sort of funny. We say one thing and do another. We find ways to answer questions to make ourselves sound like the people we WANT to be, but not necessarily the way we are. We believe we want something, and yet when we get it, we dislike it.

These fuzzy brain and emotional mechanics mean gathering intel about people is a true and ongoing challenge for any organization. Surveys asking for feedback are great – but sometimes the results only tell us a small part of the story.

What are some ways you can be sure you are looking beyond the data and results to understand customers?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Observe with an anthropologist’s heart.

In his now-classic book, Why We Buy, Paco Underhill reported many times when observation was the key to understanding. By dispatching anthropologists into retail stores, Underhill and his team observed behavior otherwise never examined in traditional feedback.

For example, as a man was deciding on which package of underwear to purchase, his wife asked him to pick up a package for her! This observation led to a realization that women were buying men’s underwear for comfort and other reasons that simply weren’t available in the women’s department. Nobody would ask questions leading to these answers on a survey!

Observing people in their own world, living their own lives, can lead to true insight. And understanding customers means you can serve them better.

2. Allow for one-to-one conversations with “an outsider.”

People like to buy from people they like, right? This common thought is common because it’s true. But what if something goes wrong after buying?

People often avoid conflict and don’t want to upset their new friend, the salesperson. Asking an objective, third-party (not the salesperson’s manager, for instance) to follow up and ask how things are going can provide a way for customers to feel heard without hurting.

Be specific in asking about people and their roles. Don’t say “How’s it going with Fred as your account manager?” Instead, ask about specific actions, like “Does Fred get back to you in a timely way when you call him?”

People will open up about what’s working and what isn’t, and you can learn what makes your superstars super.

3. Predict the future!

Survey results and generalized feedback have a way of wooing us into a false sense of security. We observe the small twitches in the results – a half a percentage point here and a full one-percent upswing there – and then move on with our day.  But what if we took a closer look at some of those tiny dips or subtle increases?

Those almost imperceptible changes can lead to great discoveries! Dig into learning more – call those customers who report a 9 in satisfaction after a year of 10s and ask them what’s going on. Find out how to avoid the next big crisis by taking those small challenges seriously. Learn and predict how you can turn those subtle swings into positive results!

Don’t stop asking for feedback.

Don’t stop looking for answers. Surveys and feedback mechanisms are absolutely critical to a customer-focused organization. Use them for all the good you can, and then go beyond the analytics to show empathy and build relationships. Understanding customers helps you stay leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

Jeannie Walters has spent nearly 20 years evaluating and improving customer experiences. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) the Chicagoland Ambassador and a CX Expert Panel member for the Customer Experience Professionals Association, a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, and a TEDx speaker.

She’s passionate about making the everyday interactions we all have as customers better and writes, speaks, studies and trains on customer experience issues around the world. She’s worked with Verizon Wireless, Allstate, Bath and Body Works, Orangetheory Fitness, Citrix and many others. Her mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.” Follow Jeannie at http://360connext.com or on Twitter @jeanniecw

Clarabridge can help you in understanding customers. See your customer feedback data live, today.