You walk into your local bakery, and while you browse through the goodies on display, you chat up with the baker. He asks about you, how the family is and what brings you here today. You tell him it’s your sister’s birthday and that she would love a chocolate cake. “Ah, Chocolate Truffle – her favourite, right?” he says. Absolutely, you say. He packs it up and throws in a couple of free brownies as well! “They’re on me”, he says with a wink! “Happy birthday to your sister!”
As you walk out of the bakery, you have a smile on your face. That’s the power of personalization. That is what customer service needs to achieve, especially in the online marketplace.
Good customer service is the better half of a really successful business, and that can only be achieved when customer service evolves into the customer experience. According to a 2017 study on Digital Marketing Trends by Econsultancy, by 2020, customer experience is set to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. [*Source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/] However, when today’s businesses are spread over different geographies, catering to thousands, if not millions, of customers, how does one truly get to know each individual customer? How is it possible to see them as more than just data points?
Before we search for answers to the How, we must first understand the Why. Why is it important for businesses to know their customers? Why can’t we just analyse their preferences by delving into their purchase history? Why do we need to dig deeper? Here’s why:
- To know what are their pain points: Most customers today are expressive when it comes to voicing their concerns. While most of them provide feedback to the seller, they also vent out on review sites or social media. It’s important to keep a check on what bothers them, so you can resolve their issues as early as possible, in order to retain them.
- To know what they like: No 2 people are the same, which means everyone likes different things. When you know what your customer likes, you will be able to suggest relevant items to help them make a purchase, and even inform them when something they desire becomes available at your store. This gives a boost to cross-selling and upselling.
- To know their buying cycles: Some customers shop all year round, but some shop seasonally, during festivals or special occasions. It’s important to know the buying habits of your customers as well as their budgets, so you can win them with customized offers and discounts, when and where they need them.
- To know who else they buy from: Today’s consumer is aware and informed, and he knows there are plenty of choices available to him. So even if he stays loyal to you, a customer will always scan your competition, and maybe even buy from them. It will do you a whole lot of good to know what it is in your competitor that attracts your customer, and if possible, incorporate those strategies in your own business.
- To know their favourite shopping mode: In today’s digital age, customers have access to the online marketplace on a variety of devices. Some choose to shop on the go on their smartphones or tablets, while some still prefer the safety of their laptops or PCs. By knowing their favourite device to shop on, you can add an extra layer of convenience or security for your customers through app discounts, email vouchers, payments options etc.
- To know if they trust you: When it comes to dealing with customers, it all boils down to trust. It takes a lifetime to gain a customer’s trust but just a second, to lose it! So if your customer trusts you enough with his hard-earned money, you need to make sure you let them know you appreciate their loyalty.
How to Really Get to Know your Customer
Now that we know the importance of knowing your customer, we need to understand how to do it. This part’s a bit tricky, because the personalized experience one gets in an offline store is very difficult to achieve online without actual face-to-face interaction. However, as more and more customers turn to the digital marketplace, they expect a different kind of customer experience, something which is personalized but not intrusive. Just like a customer feedback app that surveys them, makes a swift entry and an even swifter exit.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, by 2020 the demand for an omnichannel customer experience will be amplified by the need for near-perfect execution. [*Source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/] This means that to really know your customers, businesses need to create complete customer profiles that help them understand and measure their customers’ behaviours at every touch point across multiple channels. Here’s how to achieve that:
- Collect Feedback: Conducting surveys are a great method to gain honest feedback regarding a product or service. Whether you use software tools to create personal surveys or ask your customers to fill a feedback form after their purchase, you will get insights into the minds of the people who respond, and if need be, improve your marketing strategy.
One such example of a similar product that can help you do all this is Zonka, one of the most powerful survey app out there that helps you create beautiful survey forms, distribute them on iPad, Android tablets, online via website embeds, SMS and Emails in minutes.
It not only helps in capturing feedbacks but also in analysing detailed feedback analytics via its reporting engine and takes action on them and close loops via its response inbox.
- Track Repeat Customers: If a customer returns after buying from you more than twice, these are the ones that have a higher chance of becoming loyal to your business. Invest time and effort in getting to know these customers to try to make the customer's lifecycle as long and prosperous as possible.
- Develop a Profile: Get a better understanding of the demographics that you are targeting by creating the profile of the customer who will need the product or service that you are providing. This profile, which will include a customer’s likes, dislikes, family background and other important aspects, will help you correctly gauge the needs of your consumer.
- Encourage Reviews: To truly understand your consumer’s mind, you should encourage them to review the products they have purchased from you. Good reviews will attract other customers to buy from you, while unsavoury reviews will help improve business practices.
- Keep evolving: What worked last year for your customer may not work this year. Your customer is continuously evolving, changing his needs, adding to his preferences – and if you want to stay ahead of the game, so should you!
In today’s complex and ever-evolving digital landscape, business enterprises have to leverage all the data they can get to gain invaluable insights on their customers, in order to broaden their horizons. Getting to know your customer means actual communication with them. When you start treating them like people instead of data points, the more you will be able to win their trust, and the easier it will be for businesses to interpret the needs and desires of their consumer.
Reetam heads product marketing at Zonka Feedback, a multi-channel feedback & survey management software. He is passionate about technology, software products and marketing. He has spent nearly a decade helping businesses across globe deliver uncanny customer & user experiences, market faster and growth-hack effectively. He is a avid reader and a writer and shares insights based on experience that readers can actually put to use.