Identifying Customer Needs

What do you want? Great question. If you’re asking me, it depends on what you want to know. What do I want for lunch? That’s easy. Malai kofta with some vegetable biryani and garlic naan. What do I want out of life? That’s a bit more difficult to answer. In my experience, the answer to the question “what do you want” isn’t always so obvious. And yet, in the customer service environment, our ability to determine what our customer wants directly affects our ability to create an exceptional customer experience.

I once heard about a guy named Greg who bought a couple of Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge cellphones. As you can imagine, it was important to him to protect his investment. He really liked the glass screen protectors he had used for years made by a company that he liked doing business with. However, because of some engineering challenges, the company had not yet brought to market a glass screen protector for the Galaxy S7 Edge. Greg decided he would settle for a film screen protector until the glass screen protector was released.

After a couple of months, and anxious to upgrade his screen protection, Greg reached out to the company’s customer service group to find out when the product he wanted would be available. The customer service agent said it would be a while, but that Greg could upgrade to the glass screen protector once it is released and pay nothing more than the difference in price. Greg asked if that policy applied to all of the company’s retail locations, to which the agent replied that it did not, explaining that the company had no control over the policies of its franchised retail locations. Greg responded by saying the company “isn’t making this easy for its customers” and thanked the agent for the information.

This exchange gave Greg an idea. He saw an opportunity to help. He called the company’s customer service group to pass along his observation that the process could be improved. However, the agent he reached didn’t find out what Greg wanted, and instead, assumed that he was looking for some free product or other information. Greg, in frustration, complained to the company’s CEO.

A lesson learned

In resolving the matter, an important lesson was learned. After the company later asked Greg the right questions, they found that Greg had no problem paying for the products he wanted. Rather, he saw a way to help the company he admired create a better customer experience. All he really wanted was to feel heard, have his observation validated and the customer experience improved.

How can you find out what your customers truly want?

  • Ask! Make sure to use open-ended, probing questions so you get all the details
  • Listen for clues and try to anticipate – and then confirm – the true meaning behind the question or complaint
  • Be patient. Don’t immediately assume you have the solution

Identifying – and then providing – what your customers really want will help you create the kind of experience that builds trust and drives loyalty.

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