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The Five Questions You Really Need To Be Asking Your Customers

The Five Questions You Really Need To Be Asking Your Customers
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Here’s the thing about surveys. Nobody really likes to take them, and as someone who chased down many a poor shopper in stores to get their feedback, they’re not that much fun to administer, either. The added layer of difficulty in obtaining customer feedback is that when it is offered up, it can often sit on extreme ends of the spectrum. That shopper either had a really great or really terrible experience, and boy, do they want the world to hear about it. And while you need to hear the good, bad, and ugly, you also need to look for those customers who sit in the middle, because they are at highest risk of falling off that fence right into your competitor’s territory.

So what customer insights teams are challenged to do is tap into is a diverse and representative group of advocates, detractors, and indifferents, and to continually be measuring their respective pulses for changes in outlook and motivation that could potentially harm the bottom line. However, there’s good news to be had; the shifts underway in retail have empowered and emboldened consumers to demand what it is they want and need from you, so getting a core group of constituents to sound off on your brand plays right into the customer’s (mostly) selfish needs of getting what they want. What’s more, there have never been more tools that enable you to easily capture this invaluable feedback.

Let’s talk tactics here. Surveys that capture experiences on a rating scale have their rightful place as they are easily standardized and quick to administer, yet a lot is missed in the details. And asking about specific examples keeps speculation out of play. Consider, for example, the difference in the richness of information between asking, ‘On a scale of 1-10, how important is price?’ versus, ‘When was the last time you decided to buy from a competitor instead of us?’ You’re going to get a lot more information with the second question because you can always follow up with, ‘Why?’ The right phrasing is the difference between nice-to-know and need-to-know.

So if and when you have five minutes of a busy shopper’s time, what should you be asking them?

When was the last time we let you down?

Let’s not beat around the bush; you need to find out, on no uncertain terms, where you win and where you lose customers. And while the phrasing of this might make you squirm, it’s imperative to find out, ‘What did we do wrong?’ Contextualizing this as a specific event, again, brings it back to reality and gives you the details of where and when things went wrong. Capture feedback as precisely as possible and be on the lookout for themes around customer service, missing information, differences between online and offline, and product availability.

When was the last time you recommended a brand and what prompted that?

Hold on, you thought this was all about you, right? But nope, a conversation with a shopper should always ask about an experience that was memorable, even if it has nothing to do with you. What enthuses a shopper will always come back to an experience where their expectations were exceeded on all counts of service, product/service purchased, and price. They walked away from that encounter feeling empowered, knowing they made the best choice and simply couldn’t have had that experience elsewhere. Regardless of the example the customer offers up, there are always ways in which it can be translated to your business.

Without a doubt price is important, but what other considerations weigh heavily into your purchase decision?

To ask whether price is important is a waste of both your and this shopper’s time. Of course it matters, the question is do you know how important other considerations such as service, fulfilment, and availability are, as the customer assesses their options? If you know how this stacks up, you are able to re-focus and adjust your subsequent execution on other areas that aren’t price. As you’re having this conversation, keep in mind the notion of value; while to most inside a business this means price, value to the customer is multidimensional and cuts across each and every touchpoint. Focus solely on price and you miss opportunities to deepen customer loyalty.

Tell me about the last time you were about to purchase something in our store or on our site but you decided against it?

Here we are getting to the dreaded abandoned shopping cart. You were so close to converting this shopper, but yet, they walked away. What happened? You want two pieces of information here. First, what was the specific point of hesitation and how can you circumvent that in the future, and second, what did they do instead of purchasing from you? Knowing common questions and objections helps you to reinforce your staff education and on-site information.

Where and how often do you shop when you want to see the latest and greatest products?

Not all customers come to your store or site with purchase intent, but yet they’re there, and they want to see what’s new. Do you know the difference between mission-oriented and browsing mindsets and their subsequent needs? Think about it: you probably have a shortlist of places you bookmark or walk into when you’re in the mood to be inspired, and you might even have an idea of how often to expect those retailers to drop new products. The question you want to answer is not only how often do customers expect to see new product in your store but what do they want to see. And if they’re not regularly seeing fresh product on your shelves, where are they going to find that? The purchase process often takes place over many visits, and planting the idea that your brand is a destination for all things new is the first step to ultimately converting that customer and keeping them engaged over the long haul.

Your five minutes are up, and undoubtedly you’ve gleaned some valuable insights. As you close out the conversation, we’d argue that the most important and final question should be, ‘Can we have this conversation again?’ Gather customer feedback early and often with a core group of constituents, and take the guessing out of what’s really going on inside those shoppers’ heads.

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