- Defining your customer and understanding what they consider valuable (1:41:)
- How you can define a customer research plan using a recent research plan from our work as an example (4:08)
- Overview of what is a customer persona and why they are helpful in building an exceptional customer experience (13:10)
Listen to Episode 3 to learn more about effective Customer Communications
Luis: Welcome to Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. I'm Luis Wilson, and for today's episode, I am sitting down with Tracy Eames to discuss how organizations can refocus around their customers.
Hey Tracy, great to be with you.
Tracy: It's great to be here for episode three.
Luis: Absolutely. We're keeping on rolling. For today's topic, I know that we're going to talk about how organizations can refocus around their customers, right? And the first part of that is really defining their customers.
Can you talk to us about why it's so important for organizations to define their customers?
Tracy: Our companies are all based around our customers, right? We all got into business to be able to fill a need, or deliver value to our customer basis. We don't exist without our customers, so it's really important to make sure that we understand who they are, and what the value that we are going to be able to deliver to them is.
The other thing, as we spoke about on the last episode of the podcast, is knowing who your customers are, and what value they're looking for out of your product, or what value you deliver, really helps you create alignment amongst your teams. Because once you all align around who your customer is and what you're delivering to them in terms of value, then you can really set clear priorities and clear strategies around how you're going to deliver those memorable experiences to your customers.
Luis: What's some of the techniques that organizations use for defining their customer?
Tracy: Well, most organizations actually define their customers through research and interviews. When you get started as an organization, you probably have an initial sense of who your customers are, and the value you're going to be delivering to them through your products.
But also throughout time, you're going to do some more research. You're going to interview customers. You may test some prototypes and get their feedback. But really what you want to understand is not only who's buying your product, but also who is using your product. And this might define different customer segments for you.
So when you're thinking about product development, you're really thinking about the customer that's using your product. But when you're thinking about shopper marketing and those marketing ad campaigns, you're thinking about who's purchasing your product.
And a good example of this is potentially, parents and children, right? Children might be using a product, but parents are the ones purchasing a product. So you might have different messages and different values for each of those groups, even though they're both around that same product that you're offering.
Now, when we think about our offerings, in terms of TEAMES Global, I'm just trying to give a better kind of example. Luis, you did a ton of research around our investigation into launching TEAMES Global when we were thinking about how do we create relevant offerings despite all this change and amidst all this change that we're all going through.
So maybe you could talk a little bit more about that process and how you worked on defining customers.
Luis: Absolutely. We've been doing a great deal of interviews, and qualitative and quantitative research here to better understand our customers, and how to design the new offerings that we have under TEAMES Global.
Our process had a few more steps since we're starting from an idea to launching a product, but I really do think that the steps we took are still very relevant to ongoing companies with existing products. That they're looking to revisit their customer, or really dig in, maybe something changed in their customer's environment and they're looking to understand them a bit better.
Tracy: I think it's great. And I think that you did an amazing job actually outlining the process and the stakeholders. So maybe you could just share with our listeners how you went through defining the interview process, and some of the steps you took to make sure that was really successful.
Because I think you did an outstanding job of making that really comprehensive and really helping gather a robust amount of information from the different folks that you spoke to.
Luis: Sure. I can share the steps that we took in our process. I'll give you some examples of our research. And then I can also share some best practices in the backend.
There's really four large steps. The first thing you want to make sure that you do is that you craft a sampling strategy. This is a list of the people whose attitudes and beliefs matter to your research, and how you're going to reach them.
This sampling strategy is really going to be dependent on what your research question is. For us, we had heard several requests from our existing clients that they were looking for some offerings that we could deliver to their individual team members or their leaders that are going through transitions.
So our basis of our question was, "Okay, we want to talk to the folks that are going through these transitions, as well as perhaps folks that are involved in the training and development of them." Perhaps a human resources or a manager that could be looking out for somebody else's training and development. So that was our sampling strategy that we went out and reached out to.
Now, once you know who you're going to talk to and interview, and how you're going to recruit them, next is that you want to write down the interview guide. This is where you really crystallize that research question and make sure that you are having consistency in collecting this data.
As part of collecting quality data, we want to do some fundamental basics here, some tackling and blocking. You want to make sure that you're not leading your interviewers into the answers that you're looking for, or trying to confirm your hypothesis, but really testing it in an open-ended way, and not priming them to really get to what their beliefs and usages are.
And once you have this interview guide set up... And I do want to make a note that it's tempting for maybe some more experienced interviewers to skip this step, but it is critical, again, to be able to articulate it in a written fashion and have it consistent through your interviews and interviewers, if you have a team of interviewers.
Next, on the third step, is you're ready to conduct your interviews. It's conducting the interviews. I'll share some best practices that we have.
I mentioned not leading the respondent. Second would be active listening. You want to make sure that you rephrase what you've heard to ensure you've completely understood what the respondent's intentions were. Third, be patient. You don't want to rush your respondents while you're guiding the conversation. Think of your questions more of like an invitation for them to tell a story.
Then you want to make sure you're flexible also, right? If they start deviating a bit, this could be an extremely valuable moment where you uncover something that perhaps the team didn't think of before. Now this can go a bit too far, and you can start to lose some of the time in the interview, and it is very valuable. So you may have to steer the conversation back into the interview guide.
And then lastly, just a technical note, make sure you're capturing the insights in a consistent fashion. Whether it is recording the interviews with the participant's consent, or dedicating a note taker while you're interviewing the respondent, to make sure that they're capturing all those insights.
And lastly, so you've completed all your interviews. You're now moving into the analysis phase. Something that makes it easier to analyze the large volume of qualitative data, let's just say you've done 15 or 20 in-depth interviews that are about an hour long each, is organizing the responses.
We do so by question, and by theme. Once we have the data organized, for analyzing it, there's some basic questions that we would ask of any interview set that we're doing. And it is, what is the word usage? What are the words that folks are using? And what is the connotation of them? Look out for any ambiguous words that could have double meanings in that.
Next is to keep the interview answers in context. This could be something that's relevant to current events, or a changing factor in their environment. So understand what factors could be impacting their responses.
And third, to guide you as to what answers or topics to dig into more, ask yourself, what is the frequency of which the idea is mentioned across the interviews? And then how strongly do people feel about it?
Then are these folks speaking from anecdotes? What's the specificity in their answers? Is this something that they had a specific personal experience and feeling with?
For us, the journey began from idea to product launch, but really those interviews were key in uncovering some of the customer's needs that we did not know. And then also confirming some of the things that we had heard previously informally from other clients.
That led into, for us, a customer segmentation exercise. We started to understand there were other clients, potential clients, that we didn't know about before, and started this exercise to understand the different segments. And I worked very closely with you on that. Could you share with our listeners what customer segmentation is?
Tracy: Yeah, I think that's incredibly important. I think also, just to kind of not lose some of the really important points that you mentioned in your overview, I think you did a really good job in terms of capturing how important it is not to guide people in the interviews in terms of kind of quote/unquote "putting words in their mouth."
I think sometimes when we interview, we interview with the goal of getting the answer that we want. But I think really staying open to hearing their feedback and letting them kind of explore that a little bit more, even if they do go off tangent and bringing them back, is really important. Because you do uncover insights, like we did, that we wouldn't have known otherwise. So I think that's incredibly important.
And then as always, we love to go through data at TEAMES & CO. So, it's really important to kind of think about, what does that look like after interviewing a whole group of people, and how do you start to find those themes?
So I think those are great. And I think one of those things that it led us to, in terms of customer segmentation, was really identifying those different customer groups as you've mentioned.
And so when we think about TEAMES Global, for example, just to kind of give people a little bit more of a context. As you've mentioned, TEAMES Global was founded on, we really wanted to create a solution for people who were looking to up-skill at specific transition points.
They might be taking on a new leadership role. They might be looking for a new job, and they want to make sure that they're prepared for that new role. They might be taking on a new project and, again, they want to make sure that they have the right skillset and are really ready to contribute to their organization.
That doesn't kind of fit the model of TEAMES & CO overall, right? Because we work with organizations, but TEAMES Global now provides those folks with a solution to be able to really gather and kind of hone their skills in specific areas.
One of the other things then, not just looking at the individuals, one of the other things that we uncovered is, this also potentially becomes a solution for the TEAMES & CO clients, or other organizations that might be looking for an internal training and development program.
As organizations are shifting, and they're growing, they might say to themselves, "Yeah, we really want to be able to offer a comprehensive suite of learning to our team members, but we don't have the capability to create that kind of content." Well, TEAMES Global now offers them a solution to be able to offer on a company enterprise level to fulfill that need.
And so, again, we learned a lot of great things during these interviews and that was one of them. So we're really excited about that. I think if you think about this in other ways, not to just give you consulting examples, we'll give you other examples as well. If you think about the car industry, the car industry does this really well or the automotive industry, I should say.
Automotive companies have their luxury brand. Usually within that same family, they might have an eco-friendly line, when you think about hybrids or electric vehicles. They also might have their larger vehicles for families or smaller vehicles that are really good on gas mileage for commuters.
And as we're thinking about those sub-brands that live underneath one umbrella, each one of them have their different value propositions and their different priorities, right? So when you're talking about the luxury brand, you might be talking about higher quality products, a luxury experience, hand-stitched leather seats.
But when you're talking about the eco-friendly models, you're really talking about great gas mileage, conservation, and things that are really important to the consumer who's looking to make more of an eco-friendly choice.
And these benefits don't have to be actually competing benefits, right? There's some organizations who have found, there's a customer segment that wants both luxury and hybrid. So they have a lot of luxury models that have hybrid.
But again, through this customer segmentation and research, you start to learn more about what your customers are looking for, and you can offer them the most relevant thing to satisfy those needs and create that memorable customer experience.
Luis: Thank you, Tracy. I really appreciate you not just sharing customer segmentation that we face in our industry and consulting, but also an example from the automobile industry to really showcase the idea to listeners.
And hand-in-hand with the customer segmentation and really getting to know our customers at a deeper level, one of the things we build here are customer personas. Could you tell our listeners what customer personas are, and how we go about building them?
Tracy: Yeah, of course. So for those of you who don't know what a customer persona is, it's really just a glimpse or a snapshot at what a potential customer or customer group would be interested in. And so you go through questions like, what's important to this person? What are some of the challenges they face? The famous, what keeps them up at night?
Where do they get their information about certain topics or products that we offer? So you kind of start to identify what are the communication channels that we might be able to reach them through. Who do they communicate with across the organization? How are they making their decisions? What are their key decision drivers?
In all of these things, you're just basically asking yourself a myriad of questions to put yourself in their shoes. To understand why potentially they might want to be using your product, or why they don't want to be using the product that you've outlined and how you need to change it and iterate it to better suit their needs.
So if you go through the customer persona process and you say, these are my two to three different core customer segments. You have a primary audience, I have a secondary audience. These are the things that are challenging them. These are the things keeping them up at night. These are the things that they're looking for in terms of solutions. These are the types of organizations they work at. Here's how they make decisions.
And then all of a sudden you realize, "Oh, my product doesn't actually address those needs. But if I change this one thing, it might." It'll help you continually improve that customer experience and that value proposition to them. It'll also help you later down the line figure out, "How am I communicating to my customers? How am I reaching them? How am I sharing relevant information? What is relevant information to my customers?"
Today we all get so many emails and so many social media messages, that you really want to make sure that the information you are sharing with your audiences is relevant to them and timely. And this, again, will help you understand, "Okay. What's important to them. What's not important to them. And how do I best engage them in a conversation that's meaningful to them and value to them?"
Luis: Thank you. I know for us personally, the customer personas that we really built out through our interview process and our research, really helped to guide the development of the products that we're launching here shortly. And also how we communicate that, right? Having that very clear picture of who our customer is really allows us to communicate in a very relevant way to them.
So thank you, Tracy. I know that, when talking about refocusing around the customer for this episode, we've touched on defining the customer. Some of the ways that we can go about that. We've talked about customer segmentation, and just finished here with customer personas. Is there any other big ideas or key ideas we should mention?
Tracy: No, I think for us, I would kind of sum it up as really making sure that the customer's at the center of your organization. If your customer is at the center of your organization, and you're really defining success by their success, you're going to be in a really good position.
A lot of folks talk about customer experience, but if you look at their policies and procedures, they're not actually delivering on that experience. So what you want to do is, once you understand who your customer is...
And even if you haven't looked at who your customers in a while, you want to kind of revisit that topic and go through it as an organization and say, "Are we truly meeting the needs of our customers? And from top to bottom across all of our teams are the things that we're taking into account the things that are important to our customers?"
It's always just good to do this every once in a while, especially as we're in an ever-changing landscape right now, it's especially important. We want to make sure that we're really serving our customers and really going above and beyond for them in creating those memorable customer experiences.
You know, when you think about different products that you're loyal to in your personal life, you can really think about what a company going above and beyond feels like to a customer. And I think we've kind of touched on this in other episodes.
But, as you're a customer all day... Those things where you know that those companies are going above and beyond, right? They returned something really easily, or you ordered something and they put a special note in it. They made your life a little bit easier in that transaction.
Maybe you told them, "I need this gift rushed because it's so and so's birthday, and it's a really important occasion, and I want to make it special." And not only did they rush the delivery, but they also gift wrapped it for you, and put a note in, and said, "Hey, we know you're in a rush. We just wanted to make it a little bit easier."
That's the kind of company, and that's the kind of experience you are going to recommend to your friends. You're also going to kind of continually go back to, right? Because they really not only said, "Oh, customer experience is important." They put you front and center in that situation. That made you feel special as a customer, and made you feel valued.
And I think that's why we talk about this so much. And that's why we want others to think about it. Because it's really what drives our success as organizations.
So I think we've covered on a lot of points about how we can understand who our customer is. I think the most important thing is just to ask, right? I think we have customers, and we forget sometimes that our customers are really open to giving their feedback. They obviously want to improve our products as our customers, because it means they're getting a greater product.
So, I think you did a really great job at talking about what interviews are like. And I think, the more and more, as organizations, we get comfortable asking for feedback and creating that feedback loop, not only on our teams, but also with our customers, it's going to drive greater innovation and greater customer satisfaction down the line.
Luis: Well, thank you for your time, Tracy. I really appreciate you sharing the insights today.
Tracy: No, thank you, Luis. And thanks for sharing all of your hard work on interviews and giving our clients and listeners a little bit better of an understanding about how they can be successful as they plan their interviews with their customers.