Businesses across the world are investing aggressively in innovation. That’s undoubtedly a good thing! However, companies must focus on understanding customers’ needs to build a customer-centric innovation strategy that’s truly impactful.
A customer-focused approach can help organisations take impactful action based on customers’ requirements.
Leveraging your customer needs is the secret to satisfied customers and ultimately to your business success. This article will help you better identify and understand customer needs and leverage them to make a difference.
Let’s get started!
What are customer needs?
A customer need is a demand or requirement that prompts a customer to purchase a product or service. It is the key driver that directs the purchase decision-making process for the customer. For businesses, understanding customer needs can open doors to new opportunities.
Let’s simplify this with an example where you are the customer. Suppose you’re leading a project for your company, and you observe that everything is disoriented. You immediately feel the need to organise the project, break it down into tasks and sub-tasks, and allocate responsibilities to different employees. So your primary need here is to organise the project, followed by several secondary needs.
A customer-centric company would correctly understand your needs and recommend project management software that can satisfy your primary need of getting more organised. It will ideally also satisfy any key secondary needs. So it is clear that if a business wants to provide the customers (in this case, you) with an optimum solution, they need to be clear about the customer’s needs.
76% of customers expect that organisations will realise their needs and offer them solutions accordingly.
It should not go the other way round, where they have a product that satisfies some generic need and try to force-fit your needs to their product.
It is impossible to list down all customer needs. Customer needs can depend on the industry, brand, customers’ demographics, and numerous other factors. However, here are a few of the common customer needs that we listed down:
- Products that save time, money or energy.
- Products that improve productivity.
- Products that automate any manual processes.
But then again, these are just a few generic, fundamental customer needs and wants. There are many more and tend to be quite specific to the customer and their context.
3 ways to identify customer needs
Wondering how you can identify customer needs? Here are some of the easiest ways to do that:
1. Customer need analysis survey
Customers need analysis is the process of performing in-depth analysis on customers to understand their needs. It tends to figure out how the attributes and features of the product can add value to the customers. Marketers often run surveys in their target market to get a closer look at customers’ needs.
Here are some questions that can be part of such surveys:
- What are the positive and negative phrases associated with your brand in the market?
- Customers’ perspectives on which brands provide similar products/services like you?
- Asking customers to sort your brand and the competitors based on offerings, services, pricing, and other factors
All these datasets can help you clarify customer needs and ensure that your strategy is aligned with their requirements.
2. Create a customer needs statement
You can also create a customer needs statement that covers all the critical aspects to serve customer needs. It can be a valuable document for your sales and marketing teams to plan their actions better.
Here’s what you can include within a customer needs statement:
- Demographics of your target customers. This can include their age, gender, location, and other key attributes.
- What are their pain points? What motivates or drives their purchase decision?
- What is the customer’s potential budget range? How do they prefer to buy or make the payment?
- Customers may have additional expectations apart from the product or service they’re paying for. These may include support, regular updates, frequent discounts, etc. Make sure to factor these in too.
You can start collecting more relevant data and add those to your value statements to understand the customers better. In fact, you can add more sections to the statement. This is only a structure to get you started.
3. Means-end analysis
The means-end analysis survey capitalises on the data you collect through a customer needs analysis survey. It helps you get the bigger picture of what customers are looking for and how you can stand out in the crowd by offering them their requirements.
A means analysis statement analyses each customer's response to figure out what the customers need and why they need it. Once you have the reasons behind customer needs, you can divide them into the following three sections:
- Attributes: The features or attributes can be a major driving factor behind a customer’s purchase decision. It is the features that can distinguish your products and services from that of the competitors.
- Benefits: Can the customer acquire any benefit from buying the product or service? Make a note of customers’ perceived benefits and understand if that’s enough!
- Values: Is your product or service adding enough value to the customer? This is a crucial part as it can make or break the entire deal. So, keep track of it.
5 tips to solve customer needs efficiently
So what after you have a good understanding of customer needs? Is that enough? Not really! As soon as you know what the customers are demanding, it’s time to take action. Here are some quick, easy tips to help you meet customer demand:
1. Build a feedback loop
Brands should always make it a point to address each customer feedback and review it seriously. Pay special attention to repeat feedback. Rather than considering these as criticism, you should look at these reviews as opportunities to improve customers’ needs.
To keep track of customer service, brands must build a feedback loop. Such a loop should include several phases like surveys, interviews, polls, satisfaction scores, and proper channels to address those.
A regular look at the feedback loop can help your brand identify even minor technical glitches in the products and services. This will only save your time, cost, and efforts in the long run.
2. Get a speech analytics software
Businesses can also use speech analytics software like Salesken to analyse the conversation between sales reps and customers and discover real-time conversation cues. You can get developed insights into your sales pipeline and learn how to use it better.
A speech analytics software can help you understand customer needs better and help your reps with proper improvement areas to create better sales pitches. Investing in speech analytics software can be highly profitable for businesses in the long run.
3. Speed up your customer service
Swift customer service may not always be a customer need, but working on it can have long-term advantages. Stay empathetic to customers and automate your customer support workflow to respond quickly.
Businesses can use different customer service channels like emails, social media, virtual assistants, and chat to respond to customer queries promptly.
4. Create the right messaging in your sales pitches
Businesses should make sure that they are giving out the right messaging through their sales pitches. Many a time, sales reps are confused about how to communicate with the prospects. As a result, different sales reps use different takeaway messages in their cold calling scripts.
When reps are clueless about the organisation’s vision and values, they’ll obviously give the wrong message to the customers. As a result, customers will face ambiguities. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that customer needs will go unaddressed after conversion.
So, the best way is to set an organisation-wide common message. It should be the same for every employee, especially the sales and marketing professionals. That way, it will be easier to serve customer needs.
5. Focus on nurturing customer relationships
Brands should always make it a point to maintain long-term customer relationships. Proactive relationship building is a sign of long-term customer satisfaction. Brands can either complete a one-time purchase and let the customer churn out or keep communicating with the customer to ensure they keep buying from you.
The way to interact with customers says a lot about your brand. There is nothing like it if you can nurture the customers with timely customer service and support activities.
3 Mistakes that you should avoid while identifying customer needs
Identifying customer needs is not as easy as it sounds. Even a minor mistake can mess up the entire strategy. It is better to know about these common mistakes beforehand:
1. Relying only on your A-listers
Every business has its list of loyal customers. These are the frequent buyers who prefer your services to competitor services and recommend your offerings to others. However, businesses often make the mistake of relying on these A-listers for every single purpose. In fact, even when they’re conducting a customer needs analysis survey, their only hope is these A-listers.
This is a critical mistake that any business can make. The A-listers are already biased toward your services. Their opinion can be repetitive and won’t make much difference in your customer needs analysis survey. So, it is always good to move beyond the A-listers and interact with others to understand customer needs.
2. Accepting vague responses
If you’re accepting vague responses from customers as major data points, you’re making a mistake! Customers’ responses may include many generic inputs that don’t really make sense in a needs analysis.
The only acceptable responses should be the specific ones that clearly detect customer needs. If open-ended questions are creating confusion, businesses can go for close-ended surveys. You can provide the customers with common need factors like customer support, pricing, features, etc., and record their needs on a pre-defined measurement scale.
3. Asking the wrong set of questions
While performing a customer needs analysis survey, you must ask the right set of questions. The focus areas of these questions should be product or service features and what else the customers are looking for. Businesses often ask customers for the solution, but that’s a mistake. Customers can help you point out the problems. But it is your responsibility to go to the core and find out a feasible solution to this problem. If you accept the customer’s solution, it can be a short-term fix, but the problem can still arise in the long run. So, beware!
What makes up an effective need discovery process?
The purpose of the sales discovery process is to know the prospects better, understand their pain points, and then pitch the right products and services to them. Ideally, sales discovery is a multi-stage process that involves in-depth research. The key to an effective sales discovery process is proper customer needs analysis. This ensures that the reps are properly aware of the prospects and their requirements and are ready to convert them with sure-fire strategies.
Understanding customer needs can help your brand in several ways. The sooner a business can master the art of customer needs analysis, the better. Remember that customer needs analysis is a difficult process with several steps. Following the above steps will help you get it right in the most efficient way possible.