Customers, target audiences and user personas have been a hot topic recently in the strategy team here at CandidSky. The end user is the starting point for any good strategy and we’re on a mission to promote user-centred thinking.

But before you can become more user-centred in your thinking, you first need to find out just who the users are in the first place. What makes them tick? What concerns them? What are their motivations for using your products or services?

So just how do you go about getting inside your customers’ heads? Here are 5 tips for discovering customer insights.

Talk to your existing customers

In some businesses, it’s commonplace for the marketing team to have contact with customers, but that’s not always the case, particularly for larger businesses.

There are a number of different ways you can start a dialogue with customers, the first is to go undercover in your Customer Service department. Shadow the team picking up customer calls and live chats, or have a go at answering some queries yourself. You’ll get first-hand experience of what your customers are asking, what they’re complaining about, what they like and don’t like about your product or service.

To get more specific feedback, why not set up a focus group or telephone interviews with a sample of your customers? You can ask them for specific feedback and lead the direction of the conversation. Pick a sample of customers who fit different demographics and you’ll hopefully get a wide range of views.

Don’t forget, a small incentive like vouchers or a discount on future purchases is a great way to thank them for their time.

Analyse live chat transcripts and customer service notes

Another source of useful customer insights is to review live chat transcripts and any notes stored in your company’s CRM. This can be particularly useful if you have the option to download this information; putting your data into a spreadsheet will make it easier to categorise, filter, sort, and quantify what customers are asking.

You can also review communication with your customers and contacts on social media, including both publicly posted messages and private messages.

Search the forums for frank feedback

Online discussion forums can offer a wealth of insights not just from your customers but your potential customers and your competitor’s customers. The key here is finding the online forum that has people from your target audience and utilising the search facility to your advantage.

Some examples of UK online forums I always go to as a starting point are:

At first glance, these forums may seem pretty niche – parenting, entertainment, money saving, but you’ll find a wide range of topics discussed here so give them a try and search for:

  • Your brand name
  • Your competitors’ brand names
  • The service/product you offer

Under the guise of anonymity on a forum, people can be more open and frank sharing what they really think about your industry, what they’re recommending to each other, the good experiences and bad experiences.

One word of warning…you may find yourself getting sucked in. Reading threads with hundreds of replies can be like reading a novel, as you wait to see what the original person decided to do!

Read the reviews far and wide

Your business probably collects customer reviews via services like Trustpilot and Feefo, but these are just the start. It’s worth casting the net wider in your research into your customers’ opinions. Check for reviews on your Google My Business Listing and on social media. It’s also worth running some Google searches for “[your business name] reviews” to dig up any other websites and places where people are leaving reviews.

Survey data and stats

A great way to quantify your customers’ and user’s opinions is to run surveys and opinion polls. In an ideal world, you’d have a budget to run your own surveys and get to the root of exactly what you want to know. But let’s be realistic – research can be expensive and not every marketing budget can justify the cost.

That doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea altogether, it just means you’ll have to get resourceful and find some existing research.

The ONS is a great place to start your search for quantitative data. Their reports are free to access and you can usually download the raw data into an Excel format so you can run your own analysis.

The next place to look is at any trade bodies and organisations related to the industry of the business. These often publish headline stats and then charge a fee for accessing the full reports. Your business may already be a member of a trade body which publishes industry data – so check your memberships and what you can get access to without any extra charges.

Then there’s research conducted by other independent companies and your competitors. To find these, browse through Google News. Survey findings make (sometimes) great news articles. And you can usually find some headline stats and figures that will let you trace back to the source data from a news article.

You’ve got the insider info on your customers…now what?

So you’ve gathered a wealth of information on your customers, now what do you do? If you don’t have customer personas set up already, the next step is to build these based on your findings.

Categorise your customers in the way that’s most appropriate to your business. Perhaps you’ll split them by age because user behaviour differs vastly across each age group. Or maybe you’ll categorise them by how much they spend – eg do most of your big spenders have similar traits?

Once you have your customer personas set up, these can lead the discussions around existing and future campaigns – eg who is the campaign targeting? Does it resonate with multiple personas? Does your messaging need small tweaks based on each persona?

Next Steps:

If you’d like to get more strategic with your marketing and take a more user-centred approach, give us a call.

And don’t forget to check out our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.