Do you really know what your customers want?

One of the biggest challenges any business organization faces is knowing what their customers want. It’s arguably the most important, most difficult and yet most ignored information in our organizations.

It’s important because we cannot give our customers what they want (or how they want it) if we don’t know. And guessing doesn’t count. Yet the reason customers come to us (and give us money) is to get something. They need our help in the form of a product or service. Fail to give them what they want and they’ll disappear faster than a light snow in July.

It’s difficult because it’s hard to get inside other people’s heads. As Seth Godin writes, it’s hard to empathize. I like his advice because it keeps us honest. We SHOULD try to discover what our customers want. But we should also remember, we may never get it 100% right.

It’s ignored often because of arrogance. We think we know what others want. But what we really know is what we want. We see the world from where we stand so it’s natural to assume everyone else does too.

And it’s ignored because what our customers want seems simple enough. If I own a shoe store, they want shoes from me. If I run a coffee shop, they want hot coffee and a fresh pastry every morning. Not terribly complicated, right! Wrong.

The truth is we may never know exactly what all our customers want. That’s okay. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Just because we can’t reach perfection doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We need to constantly discover and rediscover what they want and how they want it. And there’s only one effective way to make this happen.

Talk to them.

Make it a habit to engage your customers every day and in every way. I’m not talking about surveys either. Just find ways to have natural, genuine conversations with your customers. Encourage and reward your employees for doing so.

You’ll learn more about what your customers want. Even better, you’ll show them you care about what they want. And you’ll find your customers appreciate your asking. You’ll find some of them want to help you do better. You’ll develop clsoer and stronger relationships with them.

And customer loyalty will go up while price become just a little less important to many of your customers. Because you’re giving them what they want.