“Get closer to your customers than ever. So close that you can tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
This quote came to mind after I learned that 44% of customers expect to be offered personalized experiences based on their interests, buying behavior, demographics and psychographics.
People know that they want more fulfilling, valuable experiences, but if you ask them, they won’t always be able to express what that looks like. But that’s okay, because it’s not their job! As business owners, it’s our job to innovate and push the boundaries of our industry.
So what does ‘getting close to your customers’ look like? And how are you supposed to anticipate their every need? There are two main ways:
Spend Time With Them IN Your Business
In the busy world of hospitality, it’s rare that anyone has a second to just stop… and observe. But that is exactly what is necessary in order to provide the ultimate customer experience. Spending time with your customers IN your business can come about in a few different ways:
- You can watch and listen, without engaging them. When you avoid influencing the situation, you can observe authentic facial expressions and body language more closely. But if you are busy talking with them, then that means you’re not busy listening to the small cues here and there that signal excitement, confusion, or displeasure.
- Experience alongside of them. This puts you in the customer’s shoes and allows you to better understand what they may be feeling. It’s important to go into this exercise with as much bias removed as possible. Going in with an open mind will allow you to actually see opportunities for improvement. This is hard for many business owners and managers to do, and that’s why it’s sometimes helpful to have several third-party participants do it as well.
Spend Time With Them In a Non-Business Setting
When you’re engaging with customers in your place of business, the conversation can steer towards typical industry conversation. But if you are able to connect with your customers on common ground, where everyone can be their true self, you will uncover important insights about your customer. This is where you can learn more about what they are passionate about, what they love doing, and what they hate doing. But it’s important that you’re there in a non-business setting because they will only open up to you like a friend if you are acting like one.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you spend time with your customer, you’re only seeing a small snapshot of their entire customer journey. You have no idea what they went through before they got to this point in time. You have no idea what their expectations are. And so as you begin to build up an image of your customer in your head, you will need to keep this in mind.
Engaging and asking the right questions will play a big role in discovering what you need to know. Does this require the ability to read people? Yes, absolutely. But that’s why you’re in the hospitality industry, right? When dealing with the travel and leisure customers, attracting people from all over the region, country, world, it can certainly feel like a BIG undertaking to understand your customer better.
It may sound simple, but by deliberately taking these actions and attempting to get closer to your customers, you can begin to understand…
- What motivates your customers
- What annoys your customers
- What your customers value above all else
- Your customers’ personality types
- Your customers’ most important emotional drivers
And when you put together your customer ‘avatar’ it will go deeper than just “men ages 25-40 that like fishing”. It will paint a much more comprehensive picture, allowing you to design a much more comprehensive experience that sets your business apart from the competition.
The two practices above are non-negotiable, but one way to fast-track your customer knowledge and their likes, dislikes, behaviors, attitudes & sentiments, is to use technology to listen in, as well as syndicated data (third party consumer research) to understand a desirable segment more in depth. Using all of these strategies together will help you create a full picture of your customer, and in turn, begin to market them in a way that resonates! I plan on going more in depth to social listening, syndicated data, and how business owners can use these tools in greater detail in a future post, so be sure to check back soon.