Running a business isn’t always about selling products. In a perfect world, you could think up an idea, build a product and have many customers ready to buy on your first launch. But—running a successful business in real life rarely works out that way.
First, you must understand your customers well enough to meet their needs and preferences. Knowing this helps you stay observant and stay ahead of customer issues before they become problems.Sounds simple —but anticipating your customer’s needs and preferences is much easier said than done, especially when you operate in a competitive market.
In this article, we examine strategies for carrying out extensive customer research to help you better anticipate your customer’s needs.
How to define Customer Needs and Preferences
Customer needs are intrinsic motivations that influence buying decisions. These needs arise from the fundamental problems, encounters, challenges, or desires that people encounter in their daily life—or business. On the other hand, preferences describe the choices customers make based on their tastes, values, and past experiences. For example, two customers considering a project management software may have different preferences concerning the integration features or the user interface design.
Importance of Understanding and Anticipating Customer Needs and Preferences
Let’s look at the main reasons you must be able to predict what your customers want.
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction
Every business owner knows you can’t succeed without satisfied customers. However, this is only possible if you understand exactly what your customers want.
When you know in detail who your client is, when the time comes, they are more likely to get a product that conforms exactly with their needs. As long as you provide customers with what they want, even ahead of the game on their requests, there’s a chance for them to stay satisfied and remain steadfast supporters of your brand.
Meeting Customer Expectations
This implies knowing what your customers want and being able to look after them beforehand. When you can formulate a scenario that meets the expectations of your customers, they feel valued and understood. It’s just like when you buy new furniture, which is even better than expected. Those businesses that go the extra mile, delivering more than they promised, are naturally better placed to create a sense of trust with their customers and win loyalty.
Providing Personalized Experiences
It’s easy to create personalized customer experiences when you can visualize your customer’s needs. For instance, when you know how the new users will think and react to things ahead of time, it’s easy enough to predict where they may have problems.
Building Long-Term Customer Relationships
While everyone can build a product, only those who understand their customers can form long-term customer relationships. That is to say, people are more likely to accept a brand that listens to their needs and provides them with what they want.
If you do this at each touchpoint with the customer, then not only will your product be improved, but also relevant features will be developed.
Anticipating Customer Needs
You have to forecast what the customers will want or need so that you can satisfy those needs long before they ever express them. Here are some strategies to do that:
Conducting Market Research and Customer Surveys
Conducting market research is one way to know the thoughts inside your customer’s head. You can choose to have one-on-one interviews where you ask a series of questions. Or, you can send out surveys like NPS or CSAT to find out what they think about your product and their experience.
Understanding market dynamics and customer opinions helps businesses stay ahead of the curve, and Mailchimp understands this. On the website, users can leave feedback about a specific part of the part or general feedback.
Analyzing Customer Behavior and Trends
Customer buying patterns and interaction with products or services offer valuable information if you analyze customer behavior. What do they like to buy? How frequently do they buy the product? These are the answers that your analysis must provide. These data are used in forecasting future tastes and adjusting business plans accordingly.
Utilizing Data and Analytics
Take a closer look at your product data to find hidden patterns and trends. You can use tools to find these patterns and make data-driven decisions.
Benefits of Anticipating Customer Needs
Here’s the breakdown of the key benefits of anticipating your customer needs that make it an appealing business strategy.Increased Customer Loyalty and Retention
Knowing what your customers want does not stop at meeting their needs. Businesses that know how to look after their customers without being asked don’t go unnoticed. In the end, it leads to a close relationship where customers tend not to switch in favor of rivals
Competitive Advantage in the Market
The ability to anticipate customer needs is not just a competitive advantage, it puts businesses at the forefront of the industry. Through such ways, companies can be ahead of trends and know what customers want. This will allow them to win more customers than their rivals. If you can become the standard brand, then market competitors will already be disadvantaged.
Higher Customer Satisfaction and Referrals
Satisfied customers who love your consistency become more than a customer base; they are also the bread-and-butter of referrals. So, when you give your loyal customers a better experience that gets good reviews and raises the value of your brand, which in turn makes it easier to get new customers.
5 Ways You Can Successfully Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs
Anticipating customer needs starts by understanding the people you sell you, what they expect from your business, and how you can successfully meet those needs. Here are five ways to successfully anticipate your customer’s needs before they become an issue.
Collect Customer Data
Start collecting customer data from day one—-as soon as they land on your website. On the signup page, collect basic information, like email or contact. Here’s an example in Airtable.
This is followed by a welcome survey to ask more questions about the job-to-be-done. For example, Converkit launches its welcome survey with easy questions that users can easily choose from. Users will answer questions about their role, audience size, creator type and even their goal for using the tool.
Customer data is also collected as users’ journey through touchpoints in the customer journey. You can also use product usage data to collect data on how users navigate your app, their purchase history, and customer service engagements.
Analyze Customer Data
The next step is to make sense of the data collected from customers. You can extract customer data from customer satisfaction (CSATs) surveys, social listening, online reviews and more. Divide your customers into segments according to their behavior, demographics, geography and job-to-be-done. Starting from here, you can get a feel for each segment’s pain points or you can send out surveys to collect more data.
Identify Customer Trends and Patterns
Besides collecting customer data and segments, find the trends repeating in the behavior of customers. This could take on different forms. You could recognize seasonal preferences, evolving trends or changes in customer demands. Make use of this data to glean useful information about the patterns behind your market. In addition, you can forecast future consumer behavior to help direct your future strategies as well. One of the good things about discovering trends and patterns is that it allows you to quickly see weak points in your business.
Use Customer Feedback
Customer feedback reveals your customers’ thoughts and opinions about the product, their experience. It can be through surveys, reviews or direct communication. Gathering customer feedback provides useful information to where your product may be deficient. Customers are always honest about why they enjoy your product and what could be improved, so take advantage of this feedback method.
Don’t wait for customers to have an actual issue before offering help. When you sense that a customer might get stuck, reach out to them. For example, when a customer is trying out advanced features, you can offer tutorial videos or use tooltips to guide them.
For example, Airtable uses tooltips to subtly guide users as they try out new features. This way, users can learn about the product and also experience it as the same time.
Above all, keep a proactive mindset. This will help you stay ahead of indoor trends, monitor competitor activities, and continuously seek opportunities to enhance your products.
Strategies for Anticipating Customer Needs
To understand what your customers want, you must stay one step ahead. Without the right strategy, however, it is hard to attain that. A good strategy is more than reactive measures. It includes a vision, goals, plans, processes and guidelines. Let’s look at the best strategies for anticipating customer needs:
Developing Customer Personas
For each segment of your audience, develop detailed customer personas. These segments must be clustered according to characteristics like demographics, psychographics and behavior. Different customer segments have different wants and expectations in terms of your product. Tailor your business strategy to suit these particular tastes by using the data.
Creating a Feedback Loop with Customers
In a feedback loop, customer feedbacks are gathered, analyzed and resolved; then, they’re communicated back to the customers. CSAT or NPS-style customer surveys can be effective in encouraging customers to communicate freely with you at appropriate points along the customer journey. Here’s an example from Netflix.
Collect the feedback, and find reoccurring problems to be solved in a hurry. After this is done, be sure to contact the customers and tell them their problems are solved. This is known as closing the feedback loop.
Staying Updated with Industry Trends and Innovations
You must always be one step ahead to be the best. This is true when dealing with customers in your business, too. Stay on top of the changes and new developments in order to keep your business at the cutting edge. It also provides you help in adapting your offerings to suit changing customer needs.
Implementing Customer-Centric Strategies
If you want to make customers happier and establish lifelong relationships, implement customer-centered strategies. Here are three key strategies for putting customers at the center of operations:
Tailoring Products and Services to Customer Preferences
Every customer has a different usecase for your product. This is especially true when you have a product that serves an audience with multiple job-to-be-done. Take Clickup for example. They understand they serve an audience with different preferences, and so, segment them from the signup process. Users can choose between templates tailored to their jobs, and access features specifically designed to help them fulfill their goals within the product.
Offering Proactive Customer Support
It’s unavoidable that customers will run into issues when using your product. That is why you must anticipate to resolve these issues as they come up. Provide proactive resources like tutorials, UI tools like tooltips, videos, chatbots, and articles—all stored in an easy-to-access knowledgebase or FAQ.
Providing these self-support resources can help your customers resolve issues faster and also reduce the number of support tickets created for your customer support team to resolve.
Continuous Improvement Based on Customer Feedback
Don’t just collect feedback from customers; let them be a source of improvement for your product. Regularly review customer feedback and take note of the strengths and weaknesses highlighted by customers.
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Group these reviews into a spreadsheet and implement changes based on customer suggestions. This will help you stay relevant to your customer’s evolving needs.
Predicting customer trends is not just a business strategy; it’s about providing the best product for your customers. When people choose, every customer has their own idea of what they want. If your product is not up to standard then you will lose customers and business.
This article has introduced some ways to know what customers want. However, you can’t know everything about your customers without the right tools. Interviews and surveys will only get you so far; you need the right tool to give you more insight into their actions and patterns.
Using customer success software like Chrun360 enables you access into the minds of your customers to keep track of their behavior, so you can uncover valuable information.