Your customers are telling you what they need. Are you prepared to listen?

When you think about the big brands that regularly deliver industry leading customer experience results — such as Amazon, USAA, Mercedes Benz and Southwest Airlines — it’s natural to wonder how they got there. 

How did they build so much trust with customers that they drive an incredible volume of repeat business? Customers who bring along their friends to purchase from the brand, and forgive their favorite company when it stumbles? 

The answer is simple: These brands created a culture that puts customers at the center of everything they do. 

They operationalize their culture by harnessing data and insights to understand how their customers behave, what they want and what motivates them to purchase. But it doesn't end there.  

The companies then proactively engage their customers to deliver what their customers want and how they want it. This sounds harder than it is, so let’s break it down.

Getting to the Heart of Customer Needs

First, it’s critical to understand that simply surveying your customers isn’t enough.  

Brands need to listen — deeply — and act quickly on what they hear. A business will typically hear from an average of 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers using traditional feedback channels. That is not enough data to make a difference in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. 

Organizations that wait for customers to tell them specifically what they don’t like lag behind their competition. 

However, as customers speak out, they drop hints about what they want long before they respond to a survey, write a complaint email, rant on your Facebook page or choose a competitor. 

Recognize Customer Signals

Here are a few data sources that can help you better understand the customer:

  • Outcome Data: Are you retaining your customers? Are they spending money with you? Are they referring others? Are you attracting new customers? Do your customers frequent your business? Do they purchase more products from you?
  • Interaction Data: Do customers visit your website for self-help? Do they choose to call, email, chat or text your contact center? When and for what purpose? Do they achieve success when they do? How long does it take to achieve success? If they fail, where do they fail? 
  • Behavioral Data: What does a customer say or do when they interact with you? What does their tone of voice imply about how they feel when they interact? How do your employees respond? 

Putting Customer Data in Context

Answering just one question about your customers will help — but it will not help transform your customer experience. 

Data needs context from other data points in order to be actionable. 

For example, if a wireless carrier knew that that 41 percent of its customers called in every month about billing issues, it might prompt the business to start updating and redesigning their agent training program around handling billing inquiries. But, if that’s all the data they have, how exactly would the carrier revamp its training?  

Would it be more helpful to know that 21 percent of these customers misunderstood a new fee the carrier recently implemented and that 11 percent of these callers escalated to a supervisor? 

Would the consequences of implementing this new fee be more readily understood by the business if it knew that 7 percent of these callers switched to another wireless carrier within six months?  

These relatable data points would broaden the issue within the business. This calling trend would no longer be viewed simply as an issue for the training department to address, but as a business issue for leaders to decide — does the benefit of increased revenue from the fee outweigh the costs of customer churn?

Leveraging customer behavior and feedback data helps to drive change faster and more effectively and keeps you ahead of the curve. These insights are well worth the investment to obtain them. And the pay-off? Loyal customers and lower costs to support them.