Genuinely listening to customers lies at the heart of solid business strategy, as Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank can attest. Speaking with Investor’s Business Daily, Blank related that he and co-founder Bernie Marcus would often stand outside Home Depot stores they visited to talk with customers.
Blank stated: “I would always thank the customers that came out with something, but I would spend more time with the ones that came out with nothing.”
For what purpose? He explained: “Do that and you’ll find out a lot of truths about your business and about how to improve it.”
That kind of people-centric, action-driven culture at the top level of your organization can go a long way toward helping leaders understand the experiences customers want, the experiences they receive, and how to fill the gaps between the two.
To get inside their heads and hearts to understand what your customers need and want from you, there’s no clearer way than to go straight to the source. Here’s how to use qualitative research and analytics as the foundation for your customer experience (CX) strategy.
How Well Do You Know Your Customers?
Research by Bain and Company found that 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a “superior” experience to their customers. However, only 8% of consumers agree.
That’s a huge delivery gap, one that Bain and Company says exists for two reasons.
The first is that to achieve sustainable growth, companies must make tough decisions, such as raising prices or transaction fees or eliminating under-performing products or services. In turn, they may end up damaging the very source of sustainable growth: their customer loyalty.
The second is the simple fact that good customer relationships are hard to build. There are a lot of moving parts to this, including understanding what customers want, following through on promises, maintaining the right dialogue, and adjusting to meet consumers’ changing needs.
To better understand these factors, quantitative data alone can’t tell as compelling a story as getting on the ground and connecting with your customers face-to-face.
A Customer Experience Strategy Begins with Research
Creating any type of strategy starts with data. Along with quantitative data, such as sales figures, website visits, and conversions, you should also look at the qualitative data that can’t be “measured” in the traditional sense.
Consumer feelings, behaviors, and motivations for doing business with one brand over another can help to guide your CX strategy. Qualitative research adds context to the quantitative data so that you understand why customers drop out of the sales funnel without having to make baseless assumptions.
What you do not know about your customers becomes your margin of error. When that margin of error is too high, you risk missing the mark on building the right CX for your brand.
When performing qualitative research, it’s essential to think about the customer experience from every stage of the customer lifecycle: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy. For example, some questions that you might ask at each of these stages are:
- How did you hear about us?
- What were your first impressions?
- If you saw an ad, what about the ad piqued your interest?
- If you were driving by, what made you stop and visit our store?
- What need are you trying to fill?
- What solutions are you considering?
- How did you find out about potential solutions?
- How are you vetting these solutions?
- What’s the most important thing?
- How do you feel about competitor X, Y or Z?
- What influenced your purchasing decision (e.g. convenience, price, appearance, etc.)?
- Where did you make your purchase (e.g. online, call center, in-store)?
- What stopped you from choosing a different solution?
- How are you using the product or service you purchased?
- What could have made your purchasing experience better?
- What about your experience will make you consider returning as a customer?
- Are you a member of any loyalty programs that could influence your future purchases?
- What have you told others about the product you purchased and the experience with our company?
- How have you shared details about the product or experience (e.g. online reviews, told a friend, etc.)?
- What follow up have you received from us regarding your purchase?
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but it should illustrate that knowing the customer’s expectations at every stage of the customer journey can lead to optimal outcomes in the next stage.
How to Use Discuss.io’s Qualitative Research Tools to Create Your CX Strategy
Empowering your CX strategy with qualitative data means using the right tools to collect customer feedback, asking the right questions of your customers, and turning their answers into insights. This is precisely what Discuss.io is built to do.
Discuss.io is purpose-built for qualitative research and analysis, allowing companies to have the same types of conversations as Arthur Blank standing outside of The Home Depot, but in a digital world at scale. Users can create discussion guides that cater to every stage of the customer lifecycle, conduct and record video interviews, capture important moments to share with key stakeholders and collaborators, and catalog and archive research data in a searchable database for analysis. With these tools, brands can gain a holistic understanding of the customer experience that will allow them to make strategic decisions about where and how to improve their CX initiatives.