In today's competitive business world, customer research plays a vital role in helping companies maintain their position in the market and stay ahead of their competitors. Typically, customer research helps businesses identify consumer segments, needs, and behaviors. This research which can be conducted as part of user research, design research, or market research, aims at revealing unmet consumer needs that create opportunities for business growth.
In this article, we'll look at how SaaS companies can make customer research a habit. Keep reading to discover why, how, when, and where to make customer research a habit at these organizations.
Customer research is the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information to help solve consumer challenges. Typically, customer research should be a continuous process because it helps you make informed decisions regarding your brand, fostering its growth and success.
Here's a rundown of the top reasons why you should consider making customer research a habit.
1. Growth Potential/Revenue
One of the reasons why you should make customer research a habit is to foster revenue growth. You should always have it in mind that the products or services you offer should satisfy the consumers' needs. For this reason, it's wise to consider their tastes and thoughts when designing your products.
By conducting customer research, you'll identify the existing gap in customer satisfaction, which in turn helps you produce goods and services that perfectly address the unmet needs. This way, you'll attract and maintain a huge consumer base which translates into increased revenue from more sales.
Some established companies like Atlassian and Zapier still see value in getting the Voice of the Customer (VOC) in their operations right from the beginning, which has brought about a growth in their revenue over the years.
2. Build Better Products
Products and services are created to satisfy specific consumer needs. They are not created in a vacuum. The products must be tested and proved to be suitable for the intended use.
It's through customer research that you get to know what to include in your new product or what improvements your current product needs to satisfy the specific needs of your customers.
Therefore, it's advisable to focus your customer research on simple demographics of your potential or existing customers, such as income level, gender, age, etc., to help build better products.
Engaging your customers through customer research plays a critical role in producing better products that perfectly address their needs.
3. Save Time for Teams
Customer feedback is crucial in the early stages of product development. It eliminates guesswork and ensures your team gets things done right the first time. Therefore, you don't have to wait until you launch your product to start customer research. Let your customers be part of your product development from the very first stage.
Involving your customers saves time for your marketing team because there'll be minimal cases of product redesign. Practically, you need to know the problems you want to solve and how to solve them before you start working on the product, and this is where customer research comes in.
Customer research helps your teams save on time—time is a crucial factor in every business entity.
4. Makes Product Development More Fun
Creating a product or service without getting some input or suggestions from different sources can be cumbersome. It's more fun to build a team that can work together to achieve the design objectives.
If you make customer research a habit, you'll always feel obliged to involve others. Customer research seeks to understand various motivators and behaviors which may be beyond a single person to comprehend.
When designing a product, don't seek inputs and opinions only from within the organization. Instead, go out there and ask your potential customers what they think should be included in the product. Doing so will make your product development process more fun because you'll know you're doing the right thing at every step.
Having understood why you should make customer research a habit, let's now discuss how you can achieve this. Here's how you can make customer research a habit:
1. Get the Right People to Conduct the Research
Not all employees are the same. So, if you want your research to be successful and sustainable, you have to choose employees who are most passionate about research work. After selling the idea of customer research to your employees, you'll be able to identify those who take it positively and those dragging their feet. Choose the enthusiastic individuals and put them in charge of customer research. After assembling the research team, choose the most qualified individuals to lead them. This way, you'll have a team ready to conduct research whenever need be.
Once you have a research team in place, ensure you organize regular seminars and workshops to equip them with sufficient research information on how to do better customer research. You should also furnish them with the right customer research tools for a smooth research experience.
2. Develop a Culture of Research
To make customer research a habit, you've to develop a research culture in your organization. Start by training the top management on the relevance of customer research. Let them understand that this culture is in the best interest of everyone in the organization.
The top management can deliver the same message to their juniors. They can also come up with measurable parameters to determine the success of this endeavor. You can make these parameters form part of your annual reviews.
During the annual meeting, you can allow each head of a department or supervisor to report on how they implement customer research and what they've achieved so far.
3. Customer Research Best Practices
Let customer research be integrated into your organization naturally. Don't let it appear as if you are forcing it on your employees. It should appear as a casual conversation, not a serious meeting. Take it step-by-step daily, but be consistent. That's the best way to turn a practice into a habit. Starting small allows your staff can adapt easily.
When the time comes to talk to potential customers, don't tell them you are researching your company or new product because that can introduce a bias. Converse with them in a way that focuses on them, not your company or product.
If anything, you are looking for their opinions to help you develop a product that can satisfy their needs. Remember that you are not using customer research to validate your assumptions but rather to test them. It's better to prove yourself wrong than struggle to prove you are right. Customer research aims to identify mistakes and weaknesses so that they can be corrected. That's why the whole process needs to be customer-centric.
4. Use a Variety of Research Methods
To get varied opinions and reach as many customers as possible, you should use different research methods. Some customers tend to respond better to particular research methods than others. Some of the research methods you can consider in your customer research include:
While interviews are time-consuming, they provide a better way to gauge how customers feel about your service/product. It's a valuable and eye-opening customer research method for a startup. Interviews will offer you a high level of insight into your customers' minds with specific details of their motivations, wants, and needs. Organizing interviews demand substantial amounts of resources, so you need to budget for them.
Surveys are relatively cheaper to conduct than interviews. It's a research method that can be conducted online, meaning your team won't need to meet the customers face-to-face. Typically, surveys are easier and quicker ways of getting information from customers.
Online surveys, for example, can allow you to reach thousands of people in the shortest time possible. The greatest advantage of surveys is they allow customers to provide honest responses, which may not be the case with face-to-face interviews.
You can conduct different types of surveys depending on your needs. For example, you can conduct on-site polls, on-page pop-up surveys, thank-you page surveys, canceled/past customer surveys, current customer surveys, or potential customer surveys.
Customer advisory boards are another great way of getting information from customers. A Customer Advisory Board is a team of strategic customers that works with your top managers, guiding them to create corporate strategies that solve industry challenges. They also offer input on services and products. Listening to the members of CAB can help you drive sales because they understand what other customers need.
During social events, exhibitions, conferences, or seminars, you'll be able to interact with many people. It won't come as a surprise if you meet some of your current or potential customers at such events.
You can take advantage of such a meeting to find out what these people think about your brand and what improvements they think are necessary. Let them do much of the talking as you listen carefully about what they say and suggest. From such a conversation, you can pick a few practical things to implement.
Direct calls to your company provide a good opportunity to learn the feelings of your customers. Not all these calls will be positive. When you receive calls from satisfied customers, try to find out what caused their satisfaction. On the other hand, if you receive negative calls, find out the cause of their dissatisfaction and correct it.
As soon as you realize you've not been conducting customer research, you should start it right away. The number of times to conduct research depends on the stage your company is in its life cycle.
If your company is in its early stages, you can conduct research every week. If that's not possible, do it every month. Conducting research regularly is the best way to make customer research a habit. If it takes too long between one research and the next, your staff will not take this practice seriously, and some start feeling it doesn't matter much to the company.
Remember that conducting research requires resources, so you have to create a budget you can afford without hurting your bottom. Once your company gets established, you can reduce the number of times you conduct customer research.
To make things easier for your staff, create and share the customer research calendar so each member knows when to conduct the research. Also, make sure the research objectives are spelled out clearly, plus the expected results and how to measure them.
So, how should you handle the information you gather from customer research The research will be meaningful only if it brings the desired results. The research results should help in the development and marketing of your product. For this to happen, you need to track all the research and the information obtained from them.
You can create a spreadsheet to track your research and the results. This makes it easy for you to pick opinions and suggestions that can be implemented. We've seen customers use tools like Notion, Miro, Airtable, but any searchable research repository will work.
How Are You Making It Searchable?
Your CRM system can also offer a platform where you conduct surveys. For this reason, you have to make it searchable and easy for people to find, join and offer their suggestions and opinions concerning your research.
Ensure you summarize everything concerning the research, including phone calls, and place the information in a platform where the concerned parties can access it.
How Are You Sharing It?
After conducting customer research, you can summarize it and share the findings with your staff for immediate action. The sooner you share it, the better. This will give your staff ample time to implement the recommendations before conducting the next research.
The method of sharing customer research results matters a lot. If your company has a preferred communication channel, the better. Use that channel to share the research results. For example, if your company prefers using email, encourage your staff to keep checking their emails to get the results in good time. You can also work with other communication channels such as video presentations, Slack, and WhatsApp, to mention a few.
Customer research processes for B2B companies isn't a one-person show. Besides being customer-centric, you must also involve your staff, from senior managers to junior staff. When everyone is involved, it becomes easier to develop a customer research habit in your organization. If you need help with your customer research, we’re happy to help.