We all like to think that we know what our customers want. After all, they keep coming back and giving us money, so surely we are doing all the things right… right?

Often it’s not as simple as that though. Customers can often be in a holding pattern; not having alternatives to your product or service, being stuck in a contract, or simply not being aware that they have choice are all reasons why customers might stick with your supply, yet dislike your business and what you give them. While these things might seem obvious to us, they are not always front of mind for our customers: we should be flexible enough to acknowledge that and move to more directly meeting their needs.

Here are 5 points that every leader in any business should know about their customers, in order to improve on their experiences and build a strong, loyal following.

Leaders should know what customers think the purpose of the organisation is

We can often get lost in our own business-speak that we easily lose sight as to why we are here. Thankfully, our customers know exactly what our purpose is – we simply need to ask them what they think we do – in their own language. A true purpose in customer-speak would be something like “you’re here to provide me with entertainment”, or “you are here to connect me”, or “you’re here to help me get fit”. All the details of what the purpose might look like to each customer is going to be different… but core to each will be the underlying purpose. Try asking your customers what they think the purpose of your organisation is in their language – you will likely be surprised!

Leaders should know what each customer wants from you

This might seem obvious at first, however as is the same with the purpose of any organisation, we often get lost in our own terminology and forget to keep customer-centric. We often translate what the customer asks for into a SuperWidget 3000, or a Small GizmoWhirl. These are not what what the customer asks for in most cases – and if they are asking for that, we have inadvertently changed the customer to bend to our will, as opposed to us servicing their needs on their terms.

Leaders should know why each customer wants what you have

This can be the critical piece of information many companies are not set up to acknowledge, or even capture! We like to think we know why customers do things, but often make assumptions about their motives instead of simply asking. What if a customer is buying your product because their grandparent is dying and the thing will enable them more time to spend with their loved one… yet they bought the lesser version that doesn’t enable stable usage? Get to know the why – it will help guide the customer to the most appropriate thing instead of shoehorning them into something unsuitable.

Leaders should know how each customer wants what you have

Again, this might seem like an obvious thing. “Customers come to us because we deliver things exclusively online” is an oft-used example in digital-centric companies, however sometimes a customer might want to get something in the mail. We might build an exclusive messaging service, calling it secure and convenient because it ties into the backends of our systems and prevents data leakage. However we forget that customers have existing preferred channels to receive their communications. The ‘how’ can often be as important as the ‘what’ and ‘why’.

Leaders should know when each customer wants what you have

Finally, understand when the customer wants things, and make it a priority to your customer for them to get it when they actually want it. Too often we get stuck in delivery cycles that force customers to wait for our products or services. This leaves a negative experience often before the customer has even started using our things. Examples of how not to do this include booking appointments that are un-specific: “Someone will be there between 8am and 4pm. You’ll need to be there at that time.” is one of the worst experiences to ever be thrust upon a customer. They have lives, and we should fit into them, not the other way around. If we can’t, it’s time to reexamine our business models and find a way to meet their expectations.

We often miss the critical ways in which customers consume what we create. Understanding these 5 key points will help leaders within any kind of organisation redevelop their models and build a legacy that customers will climb over each other to consume.

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