Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately too often an under-utilised tool of marketers.

It is, therefore, understandable that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may actually be as a result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.

 

Make customer observation everyone’s job

There are many, many opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as explained below.

If you’d like to run more successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more on our 1-Day training sessions.

 

Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the  Awareness Test  and try it for yourself.

In the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.

Exactly the same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on.

Marketers observing customers all too often miss a lot of what is happening because they are concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs. #Marketing #Observation Click To Tweet

If they were to actually listen objectively, they might hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in customer understanding.

For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.

 

The five rules of customer observation


For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/. If you would like support in setting up connection sessions with your own customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me contact me here.

This post uses images from Denyse’s book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.

This post has been regularly updated and expanded since it was first published on C3Centricity. It remains one of our most popular posts years later.

How to Become a Fan of your Customer

All companies know the importance of being customer centric, but how many of them encourage ALL their employees to think about their customers and to try and serve them better every time? 

What about you? When was the last time you yourself listened to or watched your customers using your product or service, to learn more about them, and to underst and them more deeply? Most people see this as being the responsibility of their colleagues in the Market Research and Insight Department and are happy to wait for them to come and present the findings of a research study.

Your customers are constantly changing, as are their attitudes, needs, desires and how your products and services fit into their lives. This means that everyone should be involved in getting to know them better and being close to customers should be on their annual objectives.

Plan customer closeness sessions

One of the best ways to energize curiosity and excitement around the customer, is to organise customer closeness days or weeks. During these times, several groups in the organisation leave their offices and go out into the world to watch and listen to their customers as they think about, purchase or use your products and services. There are numerous ways of doing this, but to mention just a few:

  • listening in to service centre calls
  • watching group discussions or in-depth interviews organised by market research
  • accompanying demonstrators who are showing or sampling your products in store
  • serving customers behind the counter if you have your own retail outlets
  • accompanying customers as they shop or use your product or service
  • observing your customers as they shop or use your product

Observation is not as simple as it sounds

In order to really underst and what people will be witnessing, it is advisable to run a briefing session before allowing them to go out and observe customers. Your market research and insight people should be able to help with this training and will no doubt be happy to share their expert knowledge.

Ideally each person should go out with a task or question to answer, rather than observing customers with no precise objective in mind. Watching and listening first and asking questions only afterwards, is the best way to gain a maximum amount of underst anding; by listening first you learn what is important to your customers, rather than just finding the answers to the questions you might have. Everyone can meet up at the end of the exercise to share their observations and build greater knowledge and underst anding of the customer.

Try it; you will become a fan of these exercises  and as a result, of your customers as well! If you already run such experiences we would love to hear about your ideas and success stories.

For more ideas on getting closer to your customers please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

This post is adapted from an article which first appeared on C3Centricity Dimensions on July 7th 2011

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

Post Navigator Supported By WordPress Navigator Plugin
Send this to a friend