Have you ever come across a product and thought “Ah, this is exactly what I needed! Thank God someone made it!” That’s ultimately the feeling you want all your customers to have when they use your product.
In today’s saturated market where customers are faced with a multitude of options for every purchase, it is more important than ever to create products based on a finely-tuned understanding of your target consumer.
Large corporations such as Amazon spend millions, if not billions, of dollars per annum on market research in an effort to cater to their ever-growing consumer base. After all, if you don’t meet your customer’s needs, they have plenty of other options.
So, how do you build a product that your customers really need? The starting point is to identify a need. And people’s needs vary more than we think, which is why talking to your customers is an indispensable part of the process.
Let me give you an example of a brand that attracted its customer base of one thing probably everyone loves (the probably is a joke) - Pizza.
The word pizza gets an average of 106k mentions in a day, on twitter alone. It’s a product that serves as a classic example of how smart market research makes companies stand out in an overly flooded market.https://giphy.com/gifs/Friends-season-6-the-one-with-unagi-episode-617-jn2iXu2HRpMuovBrrV
A Venice-based pizzeria Bella&Brava wanted to open new locations, and they partnered with a digital consultancy called OpenKnowledge to harness the power of social media.
By using image recognition technology, OpenKnowledge analyzed data from social media content that was created by the audience Bella&Brava were aiming to serve: The young, the hip, and the ever social- Gen Z.
They found the prime cities to open in, partnerships to expand into, and unique cultural differentiations. All this came from identifying quality pizza photos posted all over social media - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter - and observing what else was revealed in the images.
Lesson to take home?
Why is it important to ask questions to a customer?
We’ve already seen how asking questions to determine a customer’s needs is a necessary starting point as you design or improve a product or service. But it’s not just a simple feedback session for your customer either.
In fact, customers often come into the buying process quite confused about their own needs, and so are unsure about which product to settle on. The confusion is often not coming from the consumers themselves but more from the sheer complexity and saturation in today's marketplace.
They’re not sure what information is “decision-relevant” – that is, they’re not sure what factors to keep in mind as they make their choices. Some minor differences from product to product could just be a matter of looks, or maybe it makes a serious difference in functionality, but they just have no clue.
So, your interaction with your customers will ideally be a two-way exchange. Many times, customers who might be a bit muddled will actually realize that they do need your product as you ask them questions. It’s as much a sales and marketing exercise as it is a market research process.
Important Questions to Ask A Customer to Determine Their Needs For A Product
Steve Jobs, when talking about how to develop an efficient product, famously said:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You cannot start with the technology and then figure out when you’re going to sell it.”
Makes sense right? If you want to use your own time and resources effectively, then this approach is clearly the most sensible.
The goal of these questions is three-fold:
- To experience this “customer experience,”
- To understand your customers’ needs and expectations (which follows from the first)
- To understand where exactly you and your product come into the picture.
Understanding the “customer experience,” depending on your product, goes far beyond simply asking the customer for feedback on their experience with your product, although that is a part of it too.
Ultimately, you want to understand the kind of customer you are catering to – what are their lives and habits like? The more you understand about your customer demographic, the more you understand them as people, and therefore, you can make a better product to truly serve them.
The goal is to build a strong and loyal consumer base that will trust you above all else. It’s not just about your product, it’s about the experience of using your product and the service they get from you if they have any issues.
There are roughly two phases in which you might find yourself asking your customers for their thoughts and opinions: pre-launch (during development), and post-launch when you collect feedback.
Questions for pre-launch
1. Why do you need this product?
This is of course the most basic question, to begin with. Keep in mind, as we said before, that consumers might come in a bit confused. So even if you don’t get a clear answer to this, the following questions will make it clear.
Ideally, they will tell you a specific task or problem they need it for. But for other products, such as tech devices or software, this may not always be applicable.
2. How do you intend to use this product? How often, for what purpose?
This is a more specific question that allows the customer to tell you how they imagine themselves using it, and it might reveal more potential uses of the product that you weren’t even aware of before.
Some might intend to use it more often than you think. All of this will influence the design and prototype you ultimately come up with.
3. How do you currently manage the task or problem that you would like to use this product for?
This is a super important question that will reveal a lot to you about where exactly you and your product are intervening in this person’s life.
You will get a unique insight into every customer’s life and will be able to tailor and fine-tune your product to an even greater degree.
4. What is the most challenging or inconvenient thing about your current solution to the problem?
This lends more specificity to the last question and will really drive the point home as to what exactly you are trying to change in the customer’s life and habits.
This is another question that might surprise the customer as well – many times, we don’t realize how tedious and inconvenient our current ways of living are until someone comes along and proposes an alternative. So listen carefully here!
5. How much time do you currently spend on this problem, and how much time would you ideally spend on it with the help of our product?
Asking about time will give you a concrete goal to work towards in your process of developing the product.
6. How would your life change if you had this product?
This question is intended to create a two-way dialogue between the customer and you, for it works to convince them of just how much they need this product.
They will start to imagine how much more time they would have free to do other things, or how much easier a difficult task could be.
7. How much money are you willing to spend on a solution to this problem?
This is a crucial one, and keep in mind what they say about the time they spend on their current solution. The money they spend on your product, they have to get back in time saved.
If the money they’re going to spend isn’t proportionate to the time they save, they will not be inclined to buy your product. So compare the two answers and see what insight you get from that – make your budget accordingly!
Questions for Post-Launch Feedback
8. What is the most useful feature of this product?
This one is pretty self-explanatory – you need to know what you’re doing right.
9. What is the least useful feature of this product?
Asking about the most and least useful features might show you that different consumers have different needs and expectations of the same exact product. You know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There may not be uniform answers to these two questions, so pay attention.
10. Why did you choose our product over our competitors?
This is an important one – you likely know who your competitors are, so name them and ask your customers what made them choose you! If they realize that reason themselves, they’re more likely to stick with you for longer too.
11. What were you expecting from this product when you bought it and did it fulfill your expectations?
This is a more open-ended question, which allows customers to reflect on their experience using the product and reveal things to you that you may not have thought to ask. Take note.
Last Two Cents
So there you have it – you can tweak these questions to fit your exact needs and product. Remember: you are trying to get a wholesome understanding of your customers’ experience with the product.
These questions cover everything from functionality to budget to information about the customer’s life habits that pertain to you. Use this information well and build a great product!