We are all grateful (or should be) when our customers care enough about our sins of commission or omission to point them out to us.
Our family members do it all the time. So do really good friends. They let us know when we let them down. They tell us when our speech or actions cause them aggravation or embarrassment or extra work. Often, when my husband or son complains about something I said or did, it surprises me. I had no idea that he would interpret or experience my actions the way that he did.
The same is true with our customers. We go trucking along with business as usual, oblivious to the fact that there may be something we do routinely—or something we did once or twice—that causes unnecessary annoyance and aggravation to our customers.
Our clients tell us that the customer interviews we do for them are really insightful. They’re usually surprised by their customers’ candor and specificity. Our clients typically discover things in these customer interviews that they were clueless about. “I had no idea that X was causing such a big problem.” “We were aware of many of these issues, but to hear how they impact our customers’ lives in context—that’s priceless.”
What do we ask when we interview customers about their relationship with a brand, a product, or a company?
We ask them about these relationships in the context of the things they do. We ask how they feel about a particular process they perform in their jobs or lives. We ask them explicitly what frustrates or annoys them. We ask what makes it hard for them to get things done. We ask how they’d ideally like to get things done. We ask them what they’d like to be able to do that they can’t easily to today. We ask them what they’d like to be able to do more easily or faster than they can do it today. We ask who does it better. And we ask how they’d like things to be handled. We don’t just follow a script. We follow our noses. When they mention something in passing, we drill in. We try to get a clear picture of how each person does their job (B2B) or thinks about this part of their lives (B2C).
The customers we interview are usually happy to talk about their issues. There’s a reason they’re willing to talk. They have opinions and suggestions they’re happy to share. They find it cathartic and refreshing to talk to someone who really cares and will listen sympathetically. Many interviews turn into discussions of mutual exploration. Together, you’re looking at what causes them aggravation and why it does so. Often, they’re happy to suggest work-arounds or solutions. Usually they’re puzzled about why you’re so clueless about something that is clearly (from their point of view) a bad idea!
So don’t limit yourselves to customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys. Get on the phone. Call a customer today!
Customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys don’t really capture this level of customer feedback well. If you were to survey your spouse about your relationship once or twice a year, he or she would probably give you pretty high marks, overall. He might pinpoint a particular area of dissatisfaction, but wouldn’t be able to provide the kind of really useful feedback you often receive in real time, all the time, because he cares.
Transactional surveys—surveys performed right after an interaction (e.g., buying something or getting support—can provide better real-time feedback. But they miss all the non-transactional stuff. What about the day to day? The overall experience?
Interview Your Customers—Listen Deeply