Businesses developing new products and services often look at trends within their industry, technological innovations, and at what the industry-leading companies are doing. While these are all excellent sources of insight and inspiration, businesses in the development phase can neglect to consider one very important group: the customers.
Customers ultimately determine whether your new product or service is a runaway success or joins the cemetery of poorly executed great ideas. Luckily, identifying your customer’s needs and incorporating their feedback into your product and service development process is straightforward.
How to Identify Customer Needs
Identifying your customers’ needs so that your business can incorporate them into the development process will depend on whether you are creating a product or a service. For products, the most common needs — functionality, price, convenience, experience, design, reliability, performance, efficiency, and compatibility — work in tandem with one another to influence the customer’s purchasing decision. If your business is developing a new service, customers will consider empathy, fairness, transparency, control, options, and information.
If your business is developing a new product or service and you are unsure about how to analyse your customer needs, don’t neglect this amazing resource. Instead, hire a pro to learn how to build a product or service that best delivers the benefits to your customers.
Incorporating Customer Needs into Your Products and Services in Five Steps
Approaching product and service design from a customer-centric point of view means that your business will focus on creating a seamless experience for the customer at every touchpoint. By delivering a cohesive and consistent experience, you can develop a strong and cohesive relationship with your customers.
Try to avoid the following five common customer pain points by proactively developing customer-first values. This will ensure your product/service stands out and gets noticed in an increasingly cluttered marketplace.
1. Be Consistent with Company-Wide Messaging
Customers often get caught up in a ‘he said, she said’ game of being told a product can do one thing from the sales division and another from the support team. The result? Confused customers who perceive the company as disorganised — or worse, dishonest.
To safeguard against conflicting messages, providing consistent internal communications across every department is one of the best ways a business can move toward a customer-centric model. When every employee understands the company’s goals, values, and product and service capabilities, the message will seamlessly translate to meet customers’ needs.
Here are a few ways to get your entire company on the same page:
- Organise regular sales and customer service meetings
- Send out new product emails with talking points that employees can use when communicating with customers
- Provide new employees with robust onboarding (and existing employees with refresher training programs and seminars)
- Host in-person meetings (or webinars) where employees can share important projects
2. Provide Instructions for Easy Adoption
Customers purchase a product or service because they expect it to meet their needs and solve a problem — immediately. Being transparent about setup and adoption timelines will set customers’ expectations from the start and prevent them from making a negative judgement on a product because they cannot use it immediately or effectively.
One strategy businesses leverage to provide direction for easy adoption is sending product or service instructions as soon as a payment confirmation goes out. By providing customers with information about how to use the product — whether through an app push notification or dedicated email — your business will avoid confusion around next steps while building brand trust. A well-thought post-purchase strategy will enable your products or services to be usable and useful.
3. Ask Customers for Feedback
Businesses often equate asking customers for feedback with negative complaints and avoid it like the plague. After all, nobody enjoys hearing someone criticize a product or service they have worked tirelessly on for months (or years).
However, by not actively asking customers for feedback on your products and services, you are doing your business a disservice. This is because you lose out on the opportunity to proactively improve designs and catch any glitches before they spiral out of control and generate a slew of complaints and dissatisfied customers.
To capture customer feedback, companies use a variety of different systems — from customer satisfaction scores, surveys, interviews, social media polls. A personalized email or phone call following up on a particular situation can shows great customer service..
4. Proactively Develop Customer Relationships
Many businesses focus the bulk of their efforts on acquiring new customers (an activity that takes time, money, and resources) and neglect the retention aspect of the equation. As the adage goes; ‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.’ It is more cost-effective for a business to keep a long-term customer (especially one of higher value) than it is to acquire a new one. That’s not to say businesses shouldn’t increase their customer base, but by nurturing repeat customers, you will easily build a profitable and predictable business model to effectively drive revenue.
To increase your existing customer retention rate, a business must have a clear understanding of the direction that they are taking, and communicate this effectively to customers and stakeholders. Routine check-ins from customer service, rewards or points programs, hosting local events, and even shout-outs on social media (be sure to ask your customers for permission first) are ways that your business can develop the long-term customer relationships that positively impact your bottom line.
5. Focus on Solutions for the Right Customer Needs
When solving for your customers’ needs, it might seem counter intuitive to exclude a segment of prospects from your analysis. However, being honest with yourself about whose needs you can — who can’t — fulfill is a major step toward solving the right problems for the right customers. Understanding that your business cannot address every single prospective customers’ needs efficiently and effectively will help you identify and solve the ones that align with your business’s vision.
To do this you can create buying personas, which will help you establish a clear company vision, provide superior customer service, and communicate with your ideal customer on their preferred platform (so you can answer questions, respond to comments, and receive suggestions). Regardless of whether your company is a family-owned franchise, a technology startup, or an e-commerce company, to be successful and stay ahead of the competition you must identify your customers, identify their needs that you are best able to solve, and then proactively go about doing so.
Making a business plan isn’t a high-school assignment, you’re not trying to hit a word count. The best business plans can be distilled down to a single page that can be hung on the wall as a constant reminder of what everyone is working towards. Of course, your customers’ wants, needs and desires are central to it all.
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