Important But Underserved Customer Needs: How to Identify?

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Experience Design

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Creating products and services that yield more profits largely depends on understanding exactly what your underserved customer needs are. And in a time when business competition is stiff, it is essential to deliver high-quality products and services that gain traction. If you’re a business aiming for open innovation, it is worth noting that the best opportunities are found in your customer’s unmet needs.

Let’s be more practical. No matter what marketing strategy you adopt, no customer will think about patronizing your product or service unless they need it. Therefore, if you don’t want to offer products and services that get woefully ignored in the market, you need to understand your customers’ needs clearly. In other words, to stand out in business, you need to find a unique way to satisfy their needs.

Our Customer Experience Consulting and Innovation Consulting services are strategically designed to collectively identify and address underserved customer needs, reinforcing our commitment to enhancing organizational success, we meticulously analyze and optimize every facet of the customer journey, honing in on unmet needs and pain points to elevate satisfaction and loyalty and foster a culture of creativity and problem-solving, unveiling novel solutions and approaches to meet emerging customer demands. Taking the first step toward tailored innovation solutions, we offer an Innovation Blueprint, enabling businesses to assess and align their current innovation practices with specific needs and objectives.

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Customers Determine The Progress

The fact is, most businesses want to stay relevant and innovative and tend to look at industry trends or other successful companies for business growth. However, a vital component of business growth is customer needs.
Yes, you heard that right. Customers are the ones who determine the progress and longevity of your business. Happy customers result in lifetime value and higher retention rates.
The first step towards creating the type of customer experiences that result in happy customers is understanding and meeting customer needs.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about customer needs, including types of customer needs and how to identify them.

What are Customer Needs

A Customer need is a motive that prompts the customer to pay for a product or service. This means the need is what sponsors the customer’s purchasing decision.

A typical example of a customer need is what takes place around noon. This is when people in their workplaces begin to experience hunger (a need) and want to buy lunch. The restaurant’s location, quality, and type of food are factors customers will consider in choosing the restaurant they will patronize.

Building a sustainable business depends on your ability to satisfy your customer’s needs and even exceed their expectations.

Important, but underserved customer needs happen all too often. This is where the UNITE Jobs-to-be-Done Statement and Map come into play. The framework enables you to drive customer-centric growth and innovation to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.

Jobs to be Done Customer's Job Statement
The UNITE Jobs to Be Done Customer’s Job Statement
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Source: Helge Tennø.

Key Components in Identifying Underserved Customer Needs

Uncovering underserved customer needs is a critical aspect of developing products and services that truly resonate with your target audience. Key components in this process include:

  1. Customer Research:
    • Conduct thorough market research to understand your target audience. Use surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observational studies to gather insights into their behaviors, preferences, and pain points.
  2. User Persona Development:
    • Create detailed user personas that represent your ideal customers. These personas should include demographic information, behaviors, goals, challenges, and aspirations. This helps in understanding the diverse needs of your customer base.
  3. Journey Mapping:
    • Map out the customer journey to identify touchpoints where customers interact with your brand. This reveals areas where their needs may be underserved or unmet, providing opportunities for improvement.
  4. Feedback Analysis:
    • Analyze customer feedback from various channels, including online reviews, social media, and customer support interactions. Look for recurring themes or issues that indicate potential gaps in meeting customer needs.
  5. Competitor Analysis:
    • Study competitors to identify areas where they may be falling short in addressing customer needs. Differentiate your offerings by addressing those gaps and providing unique value.
  6. Trend Analysis:
    • Stay abreast of industry trends and emerging consumer behaviours. Anticipate evolving underserved customer needs by identifying shifts in preferences, technology adoption, and societal changes.
  7. Cross-Functional Collaboration:
    • Foster collaboration between departments, including marketing, sales, customer support, and product development. Each department holds valuable insights that, when combined, provide a comprehensive understanding of customer needs.
  8. Prototype Testing:
    • Develop prototypes or minimum viable products (MVPs) to gather feedback from customers. Testing early iterations allows you to refine your offerings based on direct input from your target audience.
  9. Data Analytics:
    • Utilize data analytics to analyze customer behaviour patterns, purchasing trends, and engagement metrics. Data-driven insights can uncover hidden needs and preferences that may not be immediately apparent.
  10. Cultural Sensitivity:
    • Consider cultural and societal nuances that may impact customer needs. A deep understanding of cultural diversity helps in tailoring products and services to specific segments, ensuring inclusivity.
  11. Scenario Planning:
    • Engage in scenario planning to anticipate future changes and challenges. By envisioning different scenarios, you can identify potential future customer needs and proactively address them.
  12. Customer Co-Creation:
    • Involve customers in the co-creation process. Collaborative workshops, idea-generation sessions, and feedback forums enable direct participation, ensuring that customer insights shape the development of products and services.
  13. Iterative Approach:
    • Embrace an iterative approach to product development. Continuously gather feedback, make adjustments, and refine your offerings based on evolving customer needs and market dynamics.

By incorporating these key components into your business strategy, you can systematically uncover and address underserved customer needs, fostering innovation and delivering solutions that truly meet the expectations of your target audience.

How to Understand and Identify Underserved Customer Needs

Here are some of the best ways to identify your underserved customer’s needs to help you discover new business opportunities:

1) Identify/map your customer’s journey

When in doubt about where to begin, it’s important to understand your customer’s current needs and struggles and identify their pain points.

So, mapping your customer’s journey helps you visualize every process the customer goes through in dealing with your products and services. In addition, it takes you through the specific paths in the process that convert them from mere leads to loyal customers.

Once you identify what stage customers get stuck in the buying process and come up with ways to fix it, then the chances of converting them to loyal customers will increase.

2) Use existing customer data

In the real sense, you don’t need to look far to identify customer needs. The fastest and easiest way to identify customer needs is by checking any data you may already have from common support drivers.

Thus, take time to study common questions that your customers frequently ask about your products and services. Dig into chat logs, forums, reviews, surveys, and purchase histories to discover what customers are saying about your products and services.

3) Pay attention to the voice of the customer (VOC)

The best and most effective way to find out what your customers need is to hear from them directly. Voice of the customer surveys and programs are the best ways to get real-time insight and feedback into what customers feel about your products and services.

Using customer opinions/VoC is a great way to augment existing services for better customer satisfaction. In addition, it empowers your business to deliver only the best products and services that your customers need.

Consequently, VoC gives you better insights that can be helpful when you’re thinking about conducting market research into what products and services your customers are looking for. It also helps you determine whether or not a product you’re currently developing would make a good market fit. By paying close attention to what your customers are saying, you can grasp a new marketing strategy, which you can use for better product development.

4) Unbiased Reviews and Recommendations

Ask your existing customers about their unbiased reviews of your products and services. Pay close attention to their recommendations.

Below are some questions you can ask your customers:

  • How satisfied are you with our product/service?
  • How can we serve you differently?
  • What product/service would you like to see added to our collection?
  • What do you think is the biggest issue with product X?
  • Mention the features you would like to have added to product X in the future.
  • Would you freely recommend us to your friends/colleagues?

5) Conduct Competitive Analysis

Conducting a competitive analysis helps you get familiar with what products and services your competitors are offering. This, in turn, helps you stay relevant to your target audience. Knowing exactly what your closest competitors are offering keeps you focused on the essential features that will help you meet your customer’s needs.

It is important to note that your competitors are not just businesses that sell the same products and services you offer. It could equally be a new market trend, for example, that can make or break the effectiveness of your product that is to be launched.

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Meeting Underserved Customer Needs in 5 Steps

If companies deliberately begin to focus on customers’ needs, this can lead to innovation, business growth, and retention. However, with so many types of customer needs, how do you understand which ones to apply?

The first step to meeting customer needs is to put yourself in their shoes. Assuming you were the customer, when you purchase goods, use technology, or sign up for services: what would prevent you from achieving your ultimate goal?

Your customer needs analysis is a good starting point for getting into the minds of your customers, especially when it comes to identifying their common needs and pain points.

Here are steps to meeting customer needs:

1) Provide instructions for easy adoption

Customers purchase products and services because they believe they will meet their needs and solve their specific problems. However, adoption setup stages are sometimes difficult to comprehend. If best practices aren’t specified from the beginning and customers don’t see the value right away, it won’t be easy to gain their trust back.

A well-thought-out post-purchase digital strategy will enable your products and services to be useful and useable.

One of the most effective ways companies gain their customers’ attention is by providing in-product email instructions and walkthroughs as soon as the customer receives a payment confirmation. This generally limits the technical questions, distractions, and confusion from the immediate post-purchase euphoria.

Proper customer education is essential to deliver proper customer adoption and avoid the ‘floundering effect,’ especially when customers get stuck. As a result, most companies provide onboarding services to new customers and host live demos and webinars.

2) Offer consistent company-wide messaging

Most often, customers get caught up with random information about the potential of products and services. In the end, the customer becomes confused and left with the notion that the company is disorganized.

Consistent internal communication across different platforms is one of the best steps towards a customer-focused mindset. If the entire company understands its value creation, goals, products, and service capabilities, the messages will easily translate to meet the underserved customer’s needs.

To get everyone on the same page, send out new product emails, organize sales and customer meetings, provide robust new employee onboarding, etc.

3) Build feedback loops into every stage of the process

Pay close attention to customer complaints and suggestions, and it will change the way you operate your business. Do not completely frown at negative feedback; it helps you easily improve your business to fit the customer’s needs.

In addition, you can keep a pulse on how your customers feel at scale with customer satisfaction scores, personal customer feedback emails, social media polls, exploration customer interviews, etc.

If you’re able to incorporate this into a continuous process, you’ll never be in the dark about the stage of your customer experience. It will also position you to engage in open innovation to continue meeting your customer’s needs.

Take your customer’s feedback seriously and act on the recommendations to improve design, system, or product glitches.

4) Build customer relationships

When customers pay for a product or service, they want to use it right away to fulfil their immediate needs. Whether they are delighted with the purchase, it is important to think about their future needs constantly.

Proactive relationship building is essential to prevent customers from losing their post-purchase excitement. If customers stop hearing from you and you stop hearing from them, this can be a bad sign.

Companies solve customer relationship problems with a combination of communication strategies and customer service structures. Solve for the long-term customer need and create a customer service team dedicated to checking customer retention, and showing appreciation with rewards/gifts for loyal customers.

5) Solve the right customer needs

The best way to solve the right customer needs is by first understanding whose needs you can fulfil and whose you cannot. The truth is that all customer needs can’t be treated equally. Therefore, a company must recognize which problems it can solve and those that aren’t aligned with its core mission and vision.

To find the right customer priorities, create buyer personas and uncover consumer trends. You can also look at customers’ long-term retention patterns and establish a clear company vision.

Successful lean startup brick-and-mortar shops all solve and prioritize customer needs to stay ahead and establish industry trends.

Types of Customer Needs

Customer needs in the context of products and services can be categorized into various types based on the features, benefits, and experiences customers seek.

Here are the most common types of customer needs that drive a purchasing decision.

Product needs

It refers to the specific requirements, features, or attributes that customers seek or expect from a product. These needs are the essential characteristics or functionalities that customers consider when evaluating and selecting a product to meet their wants or solve a particular problem. Product needs can encompass various aspects, including functionality, quality, design, innovation, and customization.

Understanding and meeting these product needs is crucial for businesses to develop offerings that align with customer expectations, leading to higher satisfaction, loyalty, and overall success in the market. Businesses often conduct market research to identify and prioritize these product needs, guiding the development and improvement of their products to better meet customer demands.

  • Functionality- generally, customers need your products and services to function in a way to satisfies their desires or solves their problems.
    Example: A smartphone with a user-friendly interface and advanced features that cater to various user needs.
  • Convenience- customers only patronize you when your products and services are convenient solutions to the functions customers are trying to meet.
    Example: Online grocery delivery services provide a convenient solution for customers to meet their shopping needs without leaving their homes.
  • Price- customers have unique budgets which sponsor their purchasing decisions. Therefore, if your price is reasonable enough, they will always patronize your products and services.
    Example: Discount retailers offering budget-friendly options for customers with specific financial constraints.
  • Reliability- the product or service needs to function exactly as advertised whenever the customer wants to use it reliably.
    Example: A car manufacturer known for producing vehicles that consistently perform well without frequent breakdowns.
  • Experience- the experience of using your products and services needs to be easy and clear for customers to keep patronizing your business.
    Example: Streaming platforms that offer a seamless and user-friendly experience, encouraging customers to continue using their services.
  • Efficiency- the products/service needs to be efficient for the customer by streamlining an otherwise time-consuming process.
    Example: Project management software that streamlines collaboration and task management, saving time for businesses.
  • Performance- the product and service need to perform correctly so that the customers can achieve their goals.
    Example: High-performance athletic shoes designed to meet the specific needs of athletes and sports enthusiasts.
  • Compatibility- the products and services need to be compatible with the other products the customer is already using.
    Example: Software applications that integrate seamlessly with other tools commonly used by customers in their workflow.

Service needs

It refers to the specific requirements, expectations, or demands that customers have regarding the services they receive from a business or service provider. These needs encompass a range of elements related to the delivery and quality of services. Service needs can include factors such as reliability, responsiveness, convenience, personalization, expertise, and effective problem resolution. Understanding and addressing service needs are crucial for businesses to meet customer expectations, enhance satisfaction, and build lasting relationships. Businesses that effectively identify and fulfil service needs are more likely to create positive customer experiences and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

  • Empathy- each time your customers contact customer service to complain, they want understanding and empathy from the people assisting them.
    Example: Customer service representatives show understanding and empathy when addressing a customer’s concerns, creating a positive experience.
  • Transparency- customers expect transparency from every company they are doing business with. Pricing changes, service outages, and other unforeseen circumstances happen, and customers deserve openness from the businesses they give money.
    Example: A telecom company openly communicating service outages and providing clear information on any changes to pricing or terms.
  • Control- in business, customers come; first, they need to feel they’re in control of the business interaction from start to finish and beyond. Customer empowerment shouldn’t just end with sales. Make it easy for them to easily return products, change subscriptions, adjust terms, etc.
    Example: E-commerce platforms allow customers to easily manage their subscriptions, adjust preferences, and initiate returns through user-friendly interfaces.
  • Fairness- In terms of pricing service, customers expect fairness from your company.
    Example: A subscription-based service ensuring that pricing and terms are fair, and customers receive value in proportion to what they pay.
  • Information: customers need information from the time they start interacting with your brand to when they eventually make a purchase. Therefore, businesses should invest more in educational blog content and regular communications so that customers can have access to the information they need to successfully use your products and services.
    Example: A tech company regularly publishes educational blog content and provides comprehensive product documentation to assist customers in using their products effectively.
  • Options: Customers like variety. Therefore, they need options when they’re getting ready to purchase from a company. Offer various payment options, products, services, and subscriptions to provide them the freedom of choice.
    Example: An online retail platform offering a wide range of products, payment options, and subscription plans to cater to diverse customer preferences.
  • Accessibility: customers need to be able to access your service and support teams. This means providing multiple channels for customer service.
    Example: A customer support system offering multiple channels, such as live chat, email, and phone support, ensuring customers can reach out in their preferred way.

Customer Needs Examples

  1. Apple – User-Friendly Technology:
    • Apple is renowned for designing user-friendly technology products. The sleek design, intuitive interfaces, and seamless integration between devices cater to the customer’s need for products that are easy to use and aesthetically pleasing.
  2. Amazon – Convenient and Fast Shopping:
    • Amazon addresses the customer need for convenience and fast shopping by offering a user-friendly online platform, one-click purchasing, and speedy delivery services through initiatives like Amazon Prime.
  3. Zappos – Exceptional Customer Service:
    • Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service, going above and beyond to meet underserved customer needs. They offer free shipping, easy returns, and a 24/7 customer service hotline, emphasizing a commitment to customer satisfaction.
  4. Netflix – Personalized Entertainment:
    • Netflix uses sophisticated algorithms to provide personalized recommendations, meeting the customer’s need for tailored and diverse entertainment options. Their focus on user preferences enhances the overall streaming experience.
  5. Tesla – Sustainable Transportation:
    • Tesla addresses the growing customer need for sustainable transportation by producing electric vehicles. The company’s commitment to environmental consciousness aligns with the changing preferences of customers concerned about carbon footprints.
  6. Starbucks – Customizable Products:
    • Starbucks caters to the customer’s need for customization by allowing customers to personalize their drinks. From the type of coffee to the choice of milk and flavourings, Starbucks provides a wide range of options to meet individual tastes.
  7. Airbnb – Unique Travel Experiences:
    • Airbnb meets the customer’s need for unique travel experiences by offering a platform where individuals can rent unique accommodations worldwide. This aligns with the desire for personalized and authentic travel experiences.
  8. Google – Information Accessibility:
    • Google addresses the underserved customer’s need for information accessibility by providing a powerful search engine. Google’s focus on delivering relevant and timely information aligns with the customer’s need for quick access to knowledge.
  9. Chick-fil-A – Exceptional Customer Experience:
    • Chick-fil-A is known for its exceptional customer service and commitment to creating a positive customer experience. Their polite and attentive staff, clean environments, and efficient service contribute to meeting underserved customer needs for a pleasant dining experience.
  10. Zoom – Remote Collaboration:
    • Zoom quickly adapted to the growing need for remote collaboration by providing a user-friendly and reliable video conferencing platform. The company’s rapid response addressed the changing work landscape and the need for effective virtual communication.

These examples showcase how successful companies identify and respond to diverse customer needs, demonstrating the importance of understanding and meeting customer expectations in various industries.

Conclusion

Businesses go through a lot to stand out in their market. However, we have seen that paying close attention to customer needs opens the door to more business opportunities than any market research will ever do. Today’s best innovations came to pass by simply taking the time to pay attention to customers’ needs.

Customer needs are opportunities that can spell differentiation in a highly dense marketplace. It may take some time to uncover these unmet needs, but as soon as you do, it positions you for greater business growth.


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