better customer insight

13 Creative Ideas for Better Customer Insight

Be accountable for customer insights and complaints; it’s easy to proclaim ‘ I’m accountable.’ It’s much tougher to say ‘Call my cell.’

Do you assume a customer who doesn’t complain feels he is getting a quality service or product? Is a happy customer? We are often surprised when clients make these assumptions. Customer retention strategies depend heavily on all customer insights … knowing who is happy and who isn’t. So using creative ideas for better customer insight from customers is critical.

By Mike Schoultz

According to a Bain & Company survey, major companies typically lose half of their customers over a five-year period. Notice, it usually wasn’t ‘one year’ or ‘suddenly.’ Customers have a tipping point. They get unhappy bit by bit and then it’s the last straw. So, if you make the assumption that all your customers are happy with you …you may be in for a surprise.

Related: Lessons from the Yale Customer Insights Conference

It’s never fun to hear what you’re doing wrong or just not being the best you can be. However, there are many reasons to pay attention to the customer insights:

By asking specific follow-up questions, you can create specific solutions that improve your business and satisfy a customer’s concerns. Complaints and suggestions are free insights … much cheaper and more valuable than the research you pay outside vendors to conduct. Finding a new customer will cost you eight times as much as keeping an existing customer. Be accountable for customer insights and complaints; it’s easy to proclaim ‘ I’m accountable.’ It’s much tougher to say ‘Call my cell.’

Who can deny that gathering customer insights is crucial to providing excellent service?

However, it can be very difficult actually to go looking for feedback. You have to dive in head first, let go of your ego, and be prepared to swallow your pride to face some hard-to-swallow truths about your business.

You can easily ask customers more actionable questions to get the most out of those rare moments when you have the chance to ask them. Here are some awesome examples:

Better customer insight … who do you serve best?

If there is an employee who stands out for helping your customers stay loyal, this is the perfect opportunity to find out.

Best employees … If the customer identifies an employee by name and does not offer any more information that often means this employee is best of the “just ok.”

If the answer includes sincere superlatives, details about WHAT is so great about this employee or says “You need to hire more like that one,” you have just found a very valuable, “model” employee. Investigate what your star offers to customers and replicate as much as you can.

Look for details … what specifically pleased you the most?

I once received an answer of “You do a great job communicating the state of the big picture.” The “big picture” was totally not the focus of the initiative or even what I thought worked.

The real focus was all about the individual touchpoints and micro-interactions, but I’m thankful I received this response. It presented ways I was able to build on and expand for future projects.

Customer insight analysis … how could we make things easier for you?

Remove the constraints your customers have. Consider ways they can help you help them. We often assume certain things can’t change; then we sit frozen like deer in the headlights overcome with frustration.

If we lift those restrictions on our thinking, we can better visualize how things COULD be, which is liberating and empowering.

What would you like to see us add to our products or services?

We humans often don’t know what we want. Asking “what would make you satisfied?” leads to a lot of “um” and “I’m not sure” replies. “What should we add” encourages customers to think more about what’s missing.

Ask both satisfied and unsatisfied customers for more details

For example: What can we do to improve the checkout process? Or what should we do to make browsing online easier?

Questions like this will lead to a much more valuable insight than open-ended questions like, what can we do to improve?

Customer insight techniques … What have we forgotten that you might have needed?

Make sure everyone, including your customers and employees, are comfortable telling you when things are not perfect. It gives you the opportunity to apologize, to promise to make corrections, or at least to say “Thank you for telling me” in a more timely fashion.

When you have the rare privilege of communicating with any customer, it is your opportunity not only to make good in a poor part of the experience or transaction but to zero in on what might be an ongoing or common issue nobody bothered to complain about.

I like to say “Question everything and everyone!” It’s a way to get truly honest, constructive feedback when you may not know what truth you need to hear. People, in general, are friendly.

We like to see people happy and generally, hate to criticize things they are proud of. Look for as many ways as you can to open that door. You’ll learn amazing things as long as you listen with customer-centric ears.

Remember these simple suggestions to improve further gaining the best insights from your customers:

Better customer insight … never overlook details

Don’t overlook details … as ‘unimportant.’ Until you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it is difficult to know the importance of details.


Connect… and then move closer. You learn most when you build close relationships with your customers.

Dig deeper

Keep pressing … ‘just one more question.’ Each new fact that you discover often generates new information needs.

Use your personal experience

Put your personal experience to work, but don’t be biased by it. Don’t let your values and views take charge of getting the true picture.

Look for connections

Spot connections between seemingly unrelated observations. Keep iterating and building the puzzle of facts and their relationships.

Immerse your perspective

Look for different perspectives . from alternative roles. Try and eliminate the single role perspective at all costs and view things from as many angles as possible.

Validate and continually refine

You are never done with customer insights you have gained. Validate and continue to refine what you have learned.

Remember, customers don’t care what you do. They only care what they’re left with after you have done it.

Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics that relate to improving the performance of business. Follow him on G+FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared in Medium. It was first published in April of 2017 but its still very much relevant today. Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.

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