You want to deliver an unprecedented customer experience from the first touch to the final invoice on a piece of work, right? Creating this never starts with a computer.

Your focus must be on understanding your customer. Not just their demographic, not their job-title or project budget.

It must be on their humanity, their hopes, dreams and pain.

The people that get this part right build the best experiences.

So, how can you understand your customers better?

Scrap surveys for now and focus on unearthing what you already know... which I bet is a lot more than you think. You just need to create the space to reflect and draw on the insights of any member of your team that has interacted with your customers. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Go for a walk. Drag yourself out into the open air. Put yourself in your customers' shoes, think like them, talk like them. This might mean having a conversation with yourself as you're walking, but it's OK because there is method in the madness. The purpose is for you to learn, so you don't need to document everything right away, just allow yourself to build empathy towards those whom you serve.

  2. Assemble off-site. Get your team out of the office to a neutral location, preferably it's somewhere lovely like a country hotel. Whatever happens, ban phones and laptops. Get people talking about your customers' challenges and get them dreaming of what could be. Get your team writing, sketching, post-iting, mind-mapping.

  3. Ask questions regularly. Be obsessed with asking your colleagues about their recent interactions with customers, be curious. Get them to tell you what your customers say verbatim. Build a dictionary of customer phrases - words convey insights, and customer phrases are direct insights into their motivations and concerns.

  4. Get facilitation. Get a third-party in amongst your team helping you do any of the above. The beauty of an outside is that they will be (and should stay) outside of any workplace politics, they won't be afraid (because they'll be unaware) of any sacred cows. This means you get absilute candour, which always leads to a better outcome long-term.

  5. Ask customers. Take customers out for dinner with an expectation thart you want to learn from them what's happening in their world. Ask probing questions (within reason) that invite open-ended responses... Don't talk like it's an interview or survey, but give them room to express their true views without any defensiveness if they share thoughts about your service that aren't good. In fact, tell them you want a brutally honest reflection on your service, and that it will be a huge favour to you.

Some questions to reflect on

I've deliberately put these in the first-person, as if you are your customer. Swap with your company name and use these questions in all of the above options:

  • How happy am I to be working with ?

  • How effectively is delivering on its pre-sales promises to me?

  • How do I currently know how much values my custom?

  • What is it about the experience with that I love?

  • What is it about the experience with that I hate?

  • Why would I work long-term with ?