Knowing what your customers care about, the targets they are trying to meet, and the problems they are trying to solve is foundational knowledge for every member of your team. Understanding your customers better should be a core activity of your business.
So, what do we need to know to get a better understanding of our customers?
“Your customer’s success is your company’s success.”
How can you work out what success means for your customers?
To understand your customers, you’ve got to get cosy with customer research.
Arguably, before you make any business or product decisions, you should have strong evidence from your customer research (or potential-customer research) that they want and need what you’re offering.
Customer research doesn’t end after you’ve collected this information. The analysis and dissemination of all this information to the entirety of your team is equally as important as collecting it.
Everyone should know who your customers are and what they want – whether they work directly with customers or not. It makes everyone better at their job and better at creating products and tools that will bring your customers success – which is, after all, the central reason for your business existing.
Try out some of the methods and techniques below to better understand your customers.
The best way to understand what your customer wants is to ask them. Crazy, right?
Over the phone or in-person is preferable. We’ve personally found that this is the best way to build a relationship with our customers and be able to tailor the interview with specific follow up questions. However, this isn’t always possible – when it isn’t try email, live chat, or a tool like TypeForm as a good alternative.
It’s worth planning out a list of questions before you pick up the phone. Remember to use a mix of open and closed questions, and try not to lead the customer into answers that you think you want. The truth is always more helpful.
Here are three questions to get you started:
- How did you find our product? By asking this question, what you’re getting to understand is why they found your product. What problem were they trying to solve? What did they search for, and what questions were they asking?
- What is the biggest issue you are currently having in (the relevant area) of your business? Dig deeper into your customer’s pain points and find out precisely what they are struggling with, you might be able to see places where you can help that they have overlooked. Or you might realise your product can’t help them – both are useful lessons.
- What are your goals? This answer will reveal a lot about your customer and will help you to get closer to understanding how (and if) your product is going to help them.
Ask for feedback
Asking for feedback is very similar in format to customer interview, but emerges as a reaction to an action taken by your customers.
Live chat and on-site message prompts are a brilliant way to utilise marketing automation to better understand your customer’s behaviour. Knowing what to write in a message prompt can be tricky, but once you’ve nailed it and the replies start coming in, this is invaluable information for your business.
This detailed feedback, specific to a moment and action, allows you to understand exactly where customers are successfully using your product and where they might need help.
Try some of these approaches as chat prompts to get you started:
- Can I help you with this? By asking if someone needs help, you’re leaving this open-ended question up for interpretation. Many businesses only use this message in the sales process, but in a SaaS business, the sales process never really ends – it just changes shape.
- Have you found what you need? Understanding someone’s experience with a product is so vital to the development of that product and the success the customer has with it.
- Pro tip: Get the non-product people on your team to use your product while you watch them. We’ve found so many changes this way – from uncovering bugs to learning how someone navigates a page. Just because you built a product a certain way doesn’t mean that’s exactly how a customer will use it.
- What issue are you trying to solve? Encourage your customers always to be talking to you. You’ll likely get a whole range of responses to this prompt from quick fixes, like someone asking where to find a product feature, to longer more complex solves such as someone wanting to learn how to target their customers with email automation.
Make time for welcome calls
We’ve heard welcome calls named as “the most important aspect of my job” by several sales experts and gurus. But why are they so important?
By calling every new customer for a quick welcome call, you can learn so much about your customer’s wants and needs to ensure that they find value in your product immediately. Starting this new customer relationship by putting a personal touch to the onboarding process and giving them a chance to ask any questions is critical.
“It’s straightforward: if someone can’t work out how to use your product, then they aren’t going to find any value in it.”
We’ve found that if a customer doesn’t work out how to use our product and find value in it within the first 2-3 days of their trial, they are incredibly unlikely to become a customer. Sure, a 14-day free-trial sounds nice in your marketing pitch, but in reality, you’ve only got a couple of days to show that new customer how your product can change their business.
One of the highest barriers to this ‘aha’ moment is inadequate or incomplete onboarding. We’ve got a full guide on the best practices for user onboarding, which is worth a read if you’re working on your own onboarding process – so, for now, let’s focus on why this is so important to get right. It’s simple. If someone can’t work out how to use your product, then they aren’t going to find any value in it.
A welcome call can smash through these barriers by enabling your team to intervene before the customer gives up. By serving up tailored help, you are far more likely to get a customer actively using your product and therefore divert that customer from becoming an unconverted trial or churn risk.
Record your customer calls (with permission!)
As well as recording all our internal meetings, we’ve also become much more committed to recording any customer calls that we can. Of course, you need to make sure to get consent from the customer before doing this, and clearly explain the purpose of the recording to whomever you’re speaking to.
A favourite time of the week in our office is what we call the Friday Omnibus. This is a half-hour or 45-minute slice of time that we take at the end of every week to listen to the essential parts of any recent customer calls so that the whole team can hear the feedback in our customer’s own words.
This is such a great time for our engineering, marketing, sales, and management teams to get together and understand the most pressing issues facing our customers.
Make sure you don’t just focus these calls on things customers are struggling with. Take the chance to hear about interesting use cases for different types of customers and success stories that you could help other customers in a similar situation to replicate.
Make time for exit interviews
Most of us have heard of (and experienced) exit interviews when we’ve moved on from a job. For our employers, it’s vital for them to understand your experience within their company. Part of the idea is that, because you’re leaving, you can be more honest and say things you might not have said before.
The principle here is the same.
You might be thinking, “why would an unhappy customer who’s leaving want to talk to us?”. In some unique situations, you’d be right. But actually, most customers don’t leave because they are unhappy with your company, but because they aren’t getting value out of your product in the way they’d like to.
This is a perfect opportunity to reach out and ask for 15 minutes of their time to understand why.
Learning from these former customers is hugely important in helping you to keep your customers happier for longer.
How can you increase your customer’s chances of success with your product?
Now that we understand what success means to our customers, specifically in the context of how our own tools and products can help them, we need to know how we can nudge them towards that success.
It’s not always a natural process. Remember that your customers come to you not just for your software and products, but for your expertise and knowledge too.
Understanding them better
In case we haven’t mentioned this enough yet – you need to understand your customers to be able to help them achieve their goals.
There are plenty of ways to do this, some we’ve already listed above, and some that involve a little more tech.
An analytics toolkit can give you great insight into the behaviour of your customers. This isn’t a complete replacement for talking to them, but it is a great way to see aspects of your customer’s behaviour that they perhaps don’t see themselves or that they aren’t telling you.
We make an analytics tool that you can use for free if you’ve not got one on your site already. There are loads of things you can learn about your customer by seeing how they move about your site, which pages they linger on, and where they came from.
This information should be cross-referenced with your customer feedback and research to give you a full image of your customers and their expectations.
Targeting for personalisation and impact
Bombarding your customers and soon-to-be customers with emails, messages, prompts postal mail – it’s too much.
We want you to send fewer emails. We want you to spend less time sending them. We want you to be smart and data-informed about the way you communicate with your audience.
Fewer emails. More impact.
By segmenting and filtering your audience using analytics insights, you’re able to get personal. Sending one email a week that is personalised and highly targeted is way more effective (and way less annoying) than sending five random emails hoping to get lucky.
When you have the knowledge about what parts of your product a specific customer uses, what they struggle with, and what success looks like for them, you’re able to serve up relevant educational content and guides that help them with the tasks they really care about.
What’s better, a lot of this can be set up inside a marketing automation tool – even more powerful, and less time for your busy team.
Onboarding for customer success
In this world of short attention spans and overwhelming options, you don’t have very long to prove to a customer that your product is worth their time.
Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that sales stop once the customer buys a plan, or worse, once the customer starts their trial. This is entirely untrue. Once your new customer is using your product, we enter one of the most critical parts of the customer journey – onboarding.
“We can’t say enough how important onboarding is for customer success.”
We’ve written about the best onboarding practices, and we’ve created an onboarding webinar if you prefer watching to reading. We’ve looked at onboarding emails, and internally it’s an element of our product that we are always tweaking for improvements.
This is all to say – onboarding is very, very important to customer success.
Most SaaS products have a vast amount of direct and indirect competition – don’t take up too much of your time thinking about this, but it’s worth keeping in mind for this section. If there’s a more accessible option that can be learned faster or is more intuitive to use – your customers could be tempted to make the switch.
A lot of this can be solved in the product design and build, but proper onboarding will get you a long way there.
Education and inspiration for better product knowledge
This point on customer education is closely related to onboarding in that it’s about making sure your customers know how to get what they want from your product.
Relevant both before and after someone becomes a customer, educational content that inspires and instructs customers on how to use your product to see the success they want is a powerful tool for your business.
Through using keyword searches, customer research (there it is again!), and observing the kinds of topics other people in your space are writing about, you can curate a strong content strategy that helps nudge your customers towards their success.
Top tip: remember to target the distribution of your content to the right people at the right time using intelligent analytics software to help.
Hire a customer success role
This is a full-time job. For some businesses, this work is multiple full-time jobs. Helping to educate, inspire, and care for your customers long term is crucial in an industry where lifetime value is critical to a company’s success.
“Your customers are the most important part of your business; without them, your company simply would not exist.”
A dedicated person, or team, to be focusing entirely on customer success should be on your list of future hires if it isn’t already. Your customers are the most important part of your business; without them, your company simply would not exist. Remember this when you’re gathering your feedback and considering what you’re able to implement and change.
If you don’t have the capacity to bring someone into this role right now, many of the tasks we’ve mentioned are a good fit to spread between the marketing and sales teams as long as there is strong alignment and feedback.
We can wrap this up in two points
If you only take two things away from this article make it this:
- Keep it personal
- Do your research
Let us know if you have any questions about how to make a personalised, customer-focused, data-driven strategy work for you – we love to chat.