Guest Blogger – Marilyn Schlake, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Imagine you are your own customer. What would propel you to buy from your company? Is it to solve a problem or to fulfill a desire or want? What do you think drives your customers to purchase from you? Do you truly understand who your customers are and what makes them look to your company to solve their problems?
We may think we know our customers, but rarely do we ask our customers what they truly think or need. Customer surveys can be an efficient way to get quick feedback from customers as to their current satisfaction with the company product or service. However, they don’t tell us what customers are wanting in the future or what changes are occurring in their lives that could move them away from the business. In the case of a start-up, we want to know what changes are happening that that could move them toward our company!
Probing questions can be intimidating and may lead to uncomfortable responses. They can also improve relationships with customers, open doors to increased sales and lead to niche markets. The key is to start the conversation. Here is a sample of a few questions to ask:
- What job(s) are you trying to accomplish?
- How does this product/service help?
- What caused the problem or created the need for the product/service?
- How do you measure success or failure of this product/service?
- How could we make the product/service better for you?
- What can we do to meet your expectations, what can we do to exceed your expectations?
- What current solutions on the market delight you? (features, performance, quality, etc.)
- In the future, what will be your needs toward this product/service? How does it need to change?
Start by targeting a cross-section of your customers. Approach your customers by asking for 15 minutes of their time while in the store, after the service, or make an appointment for the interview at another time. Immediately following the interview, record the answers. Look for patterns! What are your customers telling you? Where do you need to change or improve? What are they wanting you to do to solve their needs, now and into the future?
Sources: Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur (2009), Business Model Generation.
Photo Credit – Flatbush Gardener, flickr – Creative Commons license