Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Customer Lenses

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 25, 2007

three-d-glasses.jpg Have you asked your customers lately how they view your business? 

Mary Schmidt of Mary’s Blog shares how customer perceptions vary.  Here is how she describes it:

We humans see everything through our own personal prisms (experiences, preferences, prejudices, moods, hormonal fluctuations). That means everything – life, business, religion, politics…someone’s choice of socks…

Customers are always wearing a different “hat”, or looking through a personal prism. I may be a businesswoman and blogger now, but in 30 minutes, I may be picking up the kids with my “mom” hat on my head and trying to decide what is for dinner.

How I perceive what someone has to offer is based on my point of view, prism, or customer lens.  Marketing is most effective when it looks past our demographics, even our behaviors, and looks to showing us how a product or service can meet our needs.  When I am wearing my business hat, I am not going to be interested in the email from a retailer who has an online sale (at that moment).  When I am trying to get my DSL line up and running again, I am not going to be interested in a discussion about getting my cell phone switched over to that carrier.

Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent has a good example of understanding others from the world of photography.  In her post on what we can learn from the Italian photographer Guido Harari, she shares this insight about his portraits, which applies equally well to understanding customers:

It’s about the subject, the person in the photograph, not about the photographer. When we approach a project, are we patient enough to look at it from a natural angle? In other words, can we let go of our opinions and biases and immerse ourselves into the question, the problem posed? Are we in listening mode?

If you are listening to your customers, you will begin to understand them.  When you really understand them, you understand these things:

  • The lenses they are currently using to view your offer
  • Their needs in this situation
  • What they are trying to accomplish

Ryan Karpeles of Living Lightbulbs blogged about what it takes to meet the needs of others.  He outlines these best practices for marketing:

Listen, don’t talk.
Focus on their needs, not yours.
Care for others, and they’ll care about you.
Provide value, and you’ll be valued.

I couldn’t agree more.

(Photo credit: nruboc)

12 Responses to “Customer Lenses”

  1. Becky:

    When we think about how we behave as customers, we can see that we often seek to satisfy an immediate need. Being in tune with that need and want means also being in a continuous conversation and relationship with our customers so that (1) they may feel comfortable in coming to us to express that need; (2) they may be able to suggest what exactly we can do to assist them, right now.

  2. I love the idea of a “personal prism.” And it definitely contradicts the importance of demographics and falls much more in line with psychographics (something which I think is FAR more significant anyway).

    Since personal prisms will be different for everyone, it’s important not to lump everybody into the same pile. This is something that’s so tempting for marketers to do. It makes our lives easier. But unfortunately, it doesn’t help our customers. Once again, it’s not about us. It’s all about Them.

    The trick is to find a way to peer through the Customer Lenses without being imposing or intrusive. If you can cross that hurdle, you’re well on your way to meeting and exceeding the needs and wants of your people.

  3. Absolutely agree. I have one customer experience few days ago. He was a great customer of express delivery service, but in our loyalty program he selected PSP for its little girl. We couldn’t send it to him because we havent any more. In that moment he was a father, not a customer, he felt very angry with us. WE have to know how can change our customers in a while, predict it and plan the solution.

  4. Businesses, of course, should be routinely asking customers about their perceptions. It should be part of a regular program of listening–not a one-off when the thought arises. So many times, though, businesses ask and then they don’t really know what to do with the answers. That’s usually because they get aggregrate data. What do they do, for example, with a satisfaction rating of 3.1 on a 5-point scale? If they were to tie results to specific points in the customer life-cycle, they might begin to get the kind of insights that they can turn into actions that really turn up the loyalty dial. If for example, they ask customers who have just redeemed points in the loyalty program how they perceive the company (I’m referring to Enrique’s comment), it might turn out that everyone is happy and loyal and eager to recommend, except for the one father who didn’t get the PSP he selected. The action to take could be pretty simple then. On the other hand, it might turn out that a significant number of high-value customers have issues with the loyalty program at that point. That would be a real bummer considering what a loyalty program is for, but finding out who’s discontented and why at that particular point in the customer relationship could lead to action–along with follow up with customers about the actions taken–that saves, and even strengthens relationships with very important customers. That’s not lumping people into one pile, as Ryan mentions. Segmenting by customer lifecycle triggers is a powerful way to identify trends and actions that can move loyalty (and retention and repurchase). So my point is merely asking is only the tip of the iceberg. Businesses have to be able to make sense of the answers and see what the right actions to take are, and then, of course, measure the the effect of these actions in some way.

  5. Valeria, I agree: the need for a continuous conversation, hopefully leading to relationship, is critical for ongoing understanding. We might understand a customer today, but we may not understand their needs the next time they interact with us unless we keep the conversation going. Eventually, when they see the value we can provide them, they may begin to volunteer how we can help them – again, something we find out if, and when, we listen.

    Thanks so much for getting this conversation going!

  6. Ryan, psychographics moving towards behavioral understanding are indeed much more relevant to getting to know our customers and their needs than demographics. By knowing our customers this way, we can move away from lumping customers into one group and even begin to service “the long tail”. I appreciate you chiming in, Ryan! Keep it up. 🙂

  7. Hola Enrique! Thank you for sharing your customer’s experience with us. A lot of organizations forget a customer can be a large purchaser of business products by day and a consumer by night (such as this father trying to give his reward to his little girl). What was your final solution for him?

  8. Nancy, I agree with you 100% that businesses need to find out their customers’ needs, then do something about it! Understanding the needs of individual customers is so much stronger than understanding the needs of “customer segments”, as we can do something differently in our action plan for THAT customer. Listening is one part of the equation; taking action puts what we have learned to work. Following up to see if we met the mark is the third piece!

    There are so many triggers for customer perspective: their “prism”, their role or hat, their place in the customer lifecycle, their place in the product lifecycle. A solid customer strategy puts all these pieces together into actionable treatment strategies for our customers.

  9. Great post Becky. I agree with the mantra: It’s not about our business, it’s about people.

  10. Want to Get Noticed? Get Out of the Office

    Building a business, whether start-up or established, requires you to get noticed and to be remembered. The first is keen advice for the start-up; the second is a must for established businesses. And both begin and end with you getting out of the offic…

  11. Lewis, you are all about the people aspect, so I am not surprised you pointed this out! Thanks for your comment, as always. 🙂

  12. […] lingo and assume our customers will “get it.”  We need to look at our company using customer lenses.  This will help us understand what our customers see in our offerings, how they talk about it, […]

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