The 5 Questions You Need to Be Asking Your Customers (Part 1)

By Kristyn Corrigan

As a follow up to her recent webinar, AMS Principal Kristyn Corrigan will be doing a three part series explaining the five questions you need to be asking your customers. 

In today's post, she addresses the first two questions used to identify unmet needs.

Everyone always says, “I already talk with my customers.” But the question remains, are you having the right conversations with them?

Steve Jobs is an infamous market research naysayer – with his famous quote: “You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.” –Steve Jobs

Although there’s some truth to what Jobs says, he makes a fundamental mistake, assuming that in market research, we’re simply asking the customer: “What do you want?” If you ask a question like this, it’s not surprising that what you’ll hear – solutions, and uncreative ones at that. So yes, we agree with Jobs, he’s right: We can’t ask the customer to come up with the latest and greatest solutions. What we can ask customers about are their needs. From having a foundational understanding of customer needs, we can create creative solutions that meet those needs.

Across this three-part blog series, I’ll address the five questions you need to start asking your customers and the five questions to avoid. Let’s start with the first two questions.

1. Why?

Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. Always ask why when a customer provides you with solutions, target values or specs to understand what their actual needs are. For example – if a customer tells you that he or she wants to board the aircraft first during business travel, this is actually a solution. By asking why she wants to board the aircraft first, you will get at her true underlying needs, which may be a variety of things. Think of the reasons why you might want to board the aircraft first – maybe it’s to store luggage overhead, not wanting to wait in line or an opportunity to get comfortable in your seat. There actually may be several more innovative solutions other than “boarding the aircraft first”, but if we don’t ask why in order to understand the underlying need, we won’t know the true issues we need to solve.

2. Tell me about the last time…

Storytelling allows you to hear about the customer’s experience with your product or service first hand, in their unique usage situation and in detail. Often customers bring up topics from your discussion guide in their stories, so it makes for a more natural conversation and makes your job as an interviewer easier. By getting customers to tell you stories about key moments in their purchase process and product usage you can understand the true underlying wants and needs and what’s top of mind for them in more rich detail. It also reduces the likelihood of the respondent filtering what they think you want to hear. Storytelling also helps prevent socially desirable responses. We find that once the customer becomes more invested in telling their story, the truth emerges more easily. As the customer tells you a story, listen for pain points and probe to understand why and how it could be better. Also listen for successes to understand what made the experience that way and why.


 Learn the remaining three questions you should be asking your customers in Part 2 of Kristyn's series.



Tags: Voice of the Customer

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