Insights | By Howard Tiersky
HOW TO KEEP YOUR CUSTOMER RESEARCH FOCUSED ON WHAT MATTERS
We do research to understand our customers.
The problem is there are so many things you can possibly learn about them that it’s often hard to stay focused on what’s important.
How do you steer your research so that you don’t lose your way?
By having well-defined research questions.
That’s how you know that what you’re collecting is data that you need to grow your business and avoid getting overwhelmed with information that you have limited use for.
WHAT ARE RESEARCH QUESTIONS?
If you are conducting any type of research, such as customer interviews, you need to start by getting very clear on what questions your research is meant to answer.
While these questions may be broad or narrow, they must be questions.
Don't research “customer behavior,” instead, research to find out specific questions you want to answer about customer behavior, such as:
- How do customers decide to make a purchase?
- What inspires them to tell their friends about your product? or
- What are the main reasons that cause them to return the product?
To be clear, customer research questions are not the literal questions we ask the customer; they are the things we want to know.
For example, we might want to know, “How satisfied are our customers with our current mobile shopping experience?” or, “What are the most important factors to our customers when deciding whether or not to do business with us?” or a hundred other things.
Some research questions may relate to all customer types, while others may be specific to only one.
Of course, even questions that are the same for all customer types may have very different answers depending on the segment.
For example, you may decide that it’s helpful to understand how the different types of Microsoft customers make the decision to buy Microsoft products.
However, the way a Fortune 500 company decides to buy a six-figure license for enterprise software is probably quite different from how a teenager decides to buy an Xbox.
STARTER SET OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
What knowledge about the customer would be helpful in crafting a delightful and strategically effective customer experience for your business?
The answers will vary somewhat based on your industry, but here is a starter set. It’s rare to be conducting customer research and not be interested in many of these themes.
FOR EACH TYPE OF CUSTOMER:
- What are their goals and desires?
- What are their fears and pet peeves?
- What unmet needs do they have in their life?
- Have they ever heard of your brand? What do they think of you?
- How do they feel about your competitors? Your industry overall?
- Why do they buy your products or services today compared to alternatives? Or why do they not buy?
- What is their experience and level of satisfaction through each stage of the lifecycle of a purchase (gaining awareness, shopping, buying, using your product, getting support, etc.)?
- What are their preferences in terms of channels of interaction (web, mobile, phone, in-person, etc.)?
Start with this list, customize the questions, and add any others that may be specific to your situation or industry.
Or work with a firm that does market research (such as mine) to use their experience to help you.
In any case, define your research questions with your customers in mind. What is it about your customers that you want to know?
Which user information do you need to drive better business outcomes? When you have the right questions, you’re bound to get the right answers.
My Wall Street Journal bestselling book, WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS: THE ANTIDOTE TO IRRELEVANCE, details how to leverage a research-based understanding of your customers to create fantastically successful customer experiences that drive business results. Get free access to the first chapter when you click this link https://WinningDigitalCustomers.com.