How to Identify an Important But Underserved Customer Need?
Creating products and services that yield more profits largely depends on understanding exactly what customers need. 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.
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.
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 to 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 is a Customer Need?
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.
Related: The UNITE Value Proposition Canvas: The Beating Heart of the Business Model
Types of Customer Needs
Here are the most common types of customer needs that drive a purchasing decision.
- Functionality- generally, customers need your products and services to function in a way to satisfy their desire or solve their problems.
- Convenience- customers only patronize you when your products and services are convenient solutions to the functions customers are trying to meet.
- Price- customers have unique budgets which sponsor their purchasing decision. Therefore, if your price is reasonable enough, they will always patronize your products and services.
- Reliability- the product or service needs to function exactly as advertised whenever the customer wants to use it reliably.
- Experience- the experience of using your products and services needs to be easy and clear for customers to keep patronizing your business.
- Efficiency- the products/service needs to be efficient for the customer by streamlining an otherwise time-consuming process.
- Performance- the product and service need to perform correctly so that the customers can achieve their goals.
- Compatibility- the products and services need to be compatible with the other products the customer is already using.
- Empathy- each time your customers contact customer service to complain, they want understanding and empathy from the people assisting them.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fairness- from terms of service to pricing, customers expect fairness from your company.
- 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.
- Options: Customers like variety. Therefore, they need options when they’re getting ready to make a purchase from a company. Offer various payment options, products, services, and subscriptions to provide them the freedom of choice.
- Accessibility: customers need to be able to access your service and support teams. This means providing multiple channels for customer service.
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?
How to Identify Customer Needs
Here are some of the best ways to identify your customer’s needs to help you discover new business opportunities:
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 converts 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
How to Meet Customer Needs
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 mind of your customers, especially when it comes to identifying their common needs and pain points.
Here are some of the best tips for meeting customer needs:
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 customer’s attention is by providing in-product email instructions and walkthroughs s 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.
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 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.
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.
Build customer relationships
When customers pay for a product or service, they want to use it right away to fulfill their immediate needs. Whether they are delighted upon 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 relationships problems with a combination of communication strategies and customer service structure. Solve for the long-term customer need and create a customer service team dedicated to checking customer retention, showing appreciation with rewards/gifts for loyal customers.
Solve the right customer needs
The best way to solve the right customer needs is by first understanding whose needs you can fulfill and whose you cannot. The truth is that all customer needs can’t be treated equally. Therefore, a company must recognize which problems they can solve and those that aren’t aligned with their 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 startups brick-and-mortar shops all solve and prioritize customer needs to stay ahead and establish industry trends.
Businesses go through a lot to stand out in their market. But 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.