Knowing is not not understanding the customer

I’ve already written about how customer understanding matters. That’s key to a personalized experience and marketing and a major lever for customer retention.

As the study mentioned in the linked post says, most businesses are poorly advanced in this fied, most of all from a customer standpoint.

But what does customer understanding means ? A couple of conversations on Twitter following my previous post showed that not everyone had the same expectations in this field and in terms of understanding depth.

1°) Knowing who is the customer : identity and demographics

You may think it’s the basics but that’s not obvious at all. When the customer is known (ie : has an account), he can be identified as a person. It may (but not always) mean that the business has information like gender, age, location…

It “may” because the data sources are not always linked. In some cases the customer has no possibility to log in on the website so it’s impossible to make a link between the “visitor” and a known customer profile. Sometimes all the information exist but in different databases that does not communicate. It’s also very common that, when a customer calls the customer service, his case is not linked to his overall history and identity as a customer. Last but not least, it’s even more common that when one interacts with a business on the web, the community managers are not able to reconcile a social identity (facebook, twitter…) and a customer identity.

Last, there is the anonymous customer. What relates to two cases : either the customer exists in a database but is not recognized as such while he surfs on the site or he’s someone the business known nothing about. Both can be dealt with : cookies help to track surfing behaviors and it allows to link the person with a “statistic twin”. If urban women aged less than 35 behave this way so anyone with the same behaviors will be considered as an urban women, less that 35. It’s not enough to qualify everybody but 20% is not that bad when you’re talking of millions of visitors.

2°) Knowing the customer’s intentions

The second level is about knowing the customer’s intentions. Does he prefer cameras of video games, is he planning to buy a given kind of goods ? That’s things we wan learn from “statistic twins”.

3°) Understanding what the customer expects

It’s about understanding what the customer expects from the brand and that’s often the poor parent of the approach. It’s not about guessing what he would buy but what he really expects in terms of values, behaviors etc.

It’s not about knowing, it’s about understanding. It’s not only about data, it’s more qualitative and, obviously, much more difficult for brand. It’s a matter of attention, values in and outside of the customer relationship. It’s even about the brand identity.

This is a mandatory step to addressing preference issues. How to become his prefered brand, the one that is always at the top of his mind when he wants to make a purchase.

This field is poorly addressed, maybe because it’s much more than data, because it requires listening. Maybe also because it’s about things brand don’t consider changing to please or delight a customer : ok to help him buy more but in no way he’s allowed to have an opinion about who we are and even ask us to change.

Customer understanding is about : identifying, knowing, understanding. I’m even sure that businesses and customers don’t agree on what matters the most to each of them.


Image credit : Customer Understanding by Gustavo Frazao via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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