5 Ways to Better Understand Your Customers

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Announcing our series on the core pillars of customer experience, starting with how to better understand your customers.

Header illustration with icons representing the three core pillars of customer experience

Understanding your customers is a crucial component of building a successful customer experience (CX) program. In fact, it’s the first of three central CX pillars we’ll address in the coming weeks. Combined with the second and third pillars (creating customer experiences and building a customer-centric culture), these three pillars create a strong foundation for a larger CX strategy.

We’ll finish out the series in week four by discussing how to combine the principles you’ll learn in the next few weeks to think holistically about customer experience within your organization.

First up: customer understanding.

Collecting and analyzing data is the key to unlocking deeper customer understanding, which (in turn) drives better customer experience efforts.

Let’s take a look at five foundational customer experience information sources you can use to better understand your customers.

5 ways to listen to your customers

There are many ways to listen to your customers, but the most important thing is always that you’re listening at all.

Let’s walk through five different strategies for building or enhancing your current customer listening program. You don’t need to adopt all five. Rather, implement a few of these strategies and make adjustments until you find the right combination for your business.

1. Collect effectiveness data

There are several ways to measure the current effectiveness of your CX efforts. Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) are among the most popular. By incorporating these measures into customer surveys, you can better understand your customers’ feelings of loyalty, satisfaction, and effort.

NPS measures how likely your customer is to recommend your brand to someone else, which gives insight into satisfaction and loyalty. The CSAT is a direct measure of customer satisfaction, usually in relation to a specific interaction or experience. And your CES measures the amount of effort customers had to expend to achieve a particular goal.

Learn more about how and when to use each of these measures.

2. Create customer personas

A customer persona is a finely honed profile of your best or target customer. Your company may want or need more than one persona, but you should focus on your most valuable customer types. A persona is more than a list of common characteristics; it should be as specific as possible and help you visualize the wants, needs, behaviors, and motivations of your customer.

Think beyond demographic information like age, gender, income, or geography type. Psychographic (e.g., values, opinions, aspirations), transactional (e.g., purchase histories, service records), and behavioral (e.g., engagement on your website or social media profiles) information are key components of a richly built persona.

3. Complete a customer journey map

A customer journey map is an externally focused map of your customer’s experience throughout the full cycle of a particular journey. For example, the journey could start at the customer’s own awareness of a need and end with a product purchase, with steps for every interaction and impression in between.

The process of building a customer journey map is an act of empathy; you should put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine their actions and feelings along the way. That doesn’t mean the map simply springs from your imagination; it should still be grounded in data. It does mean that by the end of the journey mapping process, you should have a deeper understanding of gaps or flaws in the customer experience and your customer’s motivations, desires, and feelings throughout.

Learn how to plan customer journey mapping exercises and how to use your maps when you’re done.

4. Supplement with outside data

There are also ways to learn more about your customer using data from outside of your company. Contextual data in business draw on facts from the broader environment, including social media, news, events, weather, market changes, demographic changes, or geography.

You can source contextual data from third-party businesses or organizations, such as market research firms or vendors. There is also a wealth of publicly available data from government sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau or Bureau of Labor Statistics. A variety of customer experience-related software can also aid your gathering of outside data.

Learn how to incorporate contextual data into your customer experience program.

5. Use a voice-of-the-customer (VoC) program

According to Gartner, VoC programs “collect, aggregate, and provide the means to analyze direct feedback from surveys and interviews, indirect feedback from social media and customer care interactions, and inferred data such as web analytics and behavioral data.” (Full article available to Gartner clients.)

According to Gartner, data sources for a VoC program can include customer complaints, customer surveys, employee feedback, company reviews, interviews, and social media, among others. Through rich, diversified sources of customer feedback, VoC programs help companies better understand customer experience and sentiment.

Visit the Capterra directory to learn about customer experience and survey software solutions to improve VoC programs.

Pull it all together with customer experience software

Many customer experience software solutions can address any or all of the above listening approaches, from managing surveys and multichannel listening to visualizing the customer journey.

By consolidating customer experience information into a single CX dashboard or hub, your organization can conduct more efficient analyses and see a fuller picture of your customers.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll address the other two pillars of customer experience: how to craft customer experiences and how to build a customer-centric culture. From there, we’ll talk about how you can put it all together to form a holistic CX strategy. Stay tuned for the rest of this series!


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About the Author

Kristen Bialik

Kristen Bialik

Kristen Bialik is a senior specialist analyst covering customer experience for Capterra. She holds B.A.'s in English and Communications from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Journalism Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Follow her at @kebialik for insight on CX for small and midsize businesses.

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