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We always hear the expression “Customer is King,” but how true is this really? How often do businesses really take the time to find out what their customers want? And how much time do they spend finding out what their customers need? People say that the bottom line is the profit, but really, isn’t it the customers? Because if you have no customers, then there won’t be any profit.

Below are some clever tips to help you find out what your customers really want.

1. Use the tools available to you.

Technology is all around you. You use it every day. You just need to use it to your business’ advantage.

Take advantage of social media. Find out what your customers like, which pictures they see, which articles they read, and which videos they watch. Read the comments. Watch out for recurring wishes and complaints. Take note of the features they really find amazing. Granted you would have to be careful. There are a lot of spammers on these sites, so you need to learn to filter the information you get.

Get information from your own site. Check out the key words the customers use to find out what they’re really searching for. Find out from what sites they’ve been and which sites they went on to next. Putting a search box in your own site would also help you do that. Know what questions they’re asking.

Visit forums and create a blog. People want to know what other people think. It’s now easy to get reviews and opinions from the Internet. Most people would visit blogs and forums to find out about a particular product before buying it, so why shouldn’t you? They want to know if a product is effective, what side effects or defects it has, if it’s useful or a waste of money. From these, you can glean what works for your customers.

Revisit transactions. What age group are your patrons? What products did they buy together? How did they pay for it? You’d be surprised at what you’d learn about these combinations. What do diapers and beer have in common? Well, they’re both needed by new fathers opting to stay home instead of going to a bar. So maybe you can draw their attention to that La-Z-Boy at the corner of your store or that new car polish you’re promoting.

 2. Learn to listen and observe.

Most of the time, if you ask your customers what they think about your product they would give you one of two things – a generic answer giving you what they think you want to hear and which really doesn’t give you much information, or they would tell you what they honestly think at the time. Getting the first answer doesn’t really help you that much. On the other hand, getting the second answer can quite be tricky because half the time, customers don’t really know what they want. So what’s the best way to get the information you need? Eavesdrop.

Go to where people converge and talk about everything and anything. Go to your favorite coffee shop. Listen to people talking about their new toy or recent disaster. Go to department stores and supermarkets. Listen to what they request from sales clerks, or what they bemoan. Walk along street stalls. See which demonstrations get the people’s attention, which products are selling like hotcakes and which get ignored. But remember, go about it quietly. You’re there to get information, nothing else.

3. Step in their shoes.

Forget your bottom line for the moment and just be the customer. Forget deliveries, salary hikes, and revenues. If you were the customer what would you really want? How does your own product work for you? What would you like to see in it?

Stroll through your own shop or browse through your own site. Look at it from a customer’s point of view. If you were the customer, do you feel comfortable strolling through the shop? Was it easy to navigate through your site? Were there people eager to assist you? Were the clerks sincere in trying to help you out? Remember, customers like to feel they’re valued. If they do, they would give you an honest opinion. People like to talk about what they know, and if they’re comfortable with you then you can get some valuable information from them. They would talk to you about their own opinion, what their officemates think about your products and a story they heard from their cousin.

You should also adapt to their wavelength. Know their language. When they complain about wanting more volume from their shampoo, what are they really saying? When they say it’s okay, what does okay really mean? Use their own language to talk to them. Certain groups have their own lingo. Learn this and get their groove as they say.

4. Broaden your horizons.

One problem that most entrepreneurs encounter is that they often get stuck up over their own product. It’s time to get out of the office and smell the flowers. Or in your case, check out the competition. Go to their website. What do their customers want from them? How are they attracting customers? What aspect of their products do the customers like? What do they hate?

Not just the competition, you should also check out other industries. What tricks are they employing? How did they solve a particular problem? What innovation have they done recently? You never know what nugget of wisdom you might get from surveying your surroundings.

You should also head to the bookstore. What are the people reading? What are the topics on the magazines? Magazines and newspapers are popular for a reason. They reflect the people’s views and what they want. Browse through them. What’s the fashion for this season? What movies are they watching? What apps are they downloading on their phone?

 5. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Since you want to know what your customers want, it would be best to get it straight from them. However, you need to be clever about this. You need to know what questions to ask and how to go about asking them.

Start a blog. Tweet. Create a Facebook page. Talk about the things that would interest your customers. As your followers grow, you would get more and more responses. And you need to be proactive. Don’t just blast out sales and openings. Respond. Give your opinion. Make recommendations. You don’t even have to limit the conversations to your product. Create a relationship with your customers. When the customers start to believe you really care about their needs, then they would become more open about what they want.

Talk with the front liners in your business. These are the people who have firsthand experience with the customers. Get your sales clerks in a meeting. Better yet, talk to them during coffee break or during a team building session. Conduct a focus group discussion with your customer service group. What are the common complaints? What features are the customers looking for? What are the questions they’re asking? What questions did your people have difficulty answering?

Go back to the basics. Conduct surveys at least once a year. Put a suggestion box in your store or a comments section on your page. Feed them the standard question for customer satisfaction. Ask a colleague’s opinion over cocktails. Discuss the merits of a product with a fellow churchgoer during a fund raiser.

There are many ways to find out what our customers really want. You just have to be clever about it.

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