If you’re working on a brand for an already established offering, conduct research by meeting with customers face-to-face — at the reception desk, at the customer service window, in the complaints or returns line, and on the sales floor. Or place yourself in a position to watch customers in action. What attracts them? What confuses them? What causes them to look more closely? What causes them to turn away?
As you tap into customer insights, look for answers to these questions:
What customer requests are you currently not fulfilling? Do they wish you offered same-day delivery, easier parking, additional product features, streamlined service, or a real person on the other end of the line instead of your voicemail system? Ask everyone in your organization to add every request they hear to a customer wish list.
You can’t fulfill all requests — doing so could cause you to veer away from your brand identity — but you at least need to know what customers want so you can better position your offerings when appropriate.
What complaints do customers register? Establish a complaint log where employees can list customer complaints they receive or elements they believe lead to customer departures.
What hints of dissatisfaction do your customers give? According to research, for every complaint you hear, 26 customers have issues they don’t mention. Unstated complaints can take the form of compliments that customers share about your competitors, wistful mentions of how things used to be (“Oh, for the good old days when a real person answered the phone”), or an end to the compliments you they used to hear frequently.
They also can take the form of questions. If customers consistently ask about prices or bills, be ready to reassess your pricing or billing procedures. If they ask to see samples of your work for other clients, they may have doubts about your offering and need better reassurances than you’re currently presenting.
Which products are on back order? And which frequently get returned? The answers to these two questions reveal what your customers want and don’t want.
Which displays, web pages, or offers get the most attention from your customers? There’s an old saying in marketing: “Sell what people are buying.” Branders might translate the concept to something like this: “Brand the attributes people love.”
To discover their preferences, watch people move through your business. Watch where they spend time on your website, the promotional offers that win the greatest response, the carpet on your retail floor that’s most worn from foot traffic, and, especially, watch to see what’s being bought, reordered, and raved about.
How do they arrive at your business? If they find you online, use analytics to track the paths they take to and through your website. If they arrive in person, notice what kinds of cars they drive, what kind of clothes they wear, whether they arrive alone or with others, what times of days they arrive.
If they arrive via a phone call, monitor how long they remain on hold, how many call directly from your website, how many layers of automated responses they have to go through.
What do they do upon arrival at your business? Do they ask about the nature of your business (if so, work to improve brand awareness)? Do they bounce from your home page or seem confused about where to go after physically arriving (if so, enhance your menu options, reception techniques, or directional signage)? Do they wait for slow page loads, on-hold messages, or checkout bottlenecks?
Unless you’re building a brand image as the busiest business in your category, interpret waits as a reason to seriously improve your customer service.
What do they do while they wait? Go to the normal collection points in your business and see what your customers experience during wait times. Are they presented with brand messages? Are they encouraged to make add-on purchases? Are they asked to share their input about your business?
If they do nothing but look around for what to do next, you’re missing an opportunity to promote your brand or to collect information that allows you to make your brand stronger.