There are certain personal questions you should never ask your customers. They probably won’t answer anyway. You shouldn’t ask about your customers’ political persuasion, religion, sexual preference, or ethnicity. But, really, do these questions really matter all that much in the long run?
The thing is lots of businesses do ask about this personal type of information, while neglecting more important questions. If you really want to get to the heart of what draws customers to your business and what might keep them coming back for more, ask the following six questions instead:
1. How did you first find out about us?
Knowing how your customers got to you – whether it was through your Facebook page, through a referral by a friend, or even from the white paper that you’ve circulated on your website – helps you figure out what type of marketing works for which type of customer. This is an easy question to slide into a survey, or even to get your sales clerks in the habit of slipping into a casual conversation with a first-time or repeat customer.
2. What would you do if we disappeared?
This is a question that might be a little scary to ask, and it could take some time for customers to answer. But their answers will show you just how valuable you are to them, while also revealing who your competition might be. The great part about an open-ended question like this is that it requires some thought from your customers and can give you widely varying answers that give your business interesting insights into how customers see your business, your products, and your competition.
3. What helped you decide to buy from us?
This question might seem similar to the first one, but it’s actually quite different. A customer might hear about your local business through a radio ad but not purchase from you until they check out your website two months later. Getting answers to this question can help you figure out which of your marketing materials is most effective, or even if most of your customers come to you through referrals (in which case you really just have to focus on keeping up your excellent reputation with past and current customers.).
4. Do you think you’ll shop more or less with us in the future?
Again, this is a tough question to ask, but it’s one that many customers will be willing to tell you. With this question, though, it’s important to try to get customers to elaborate on their answers. If they’ll shop with you more, what convinced them to do so? If less, why? What would make customers who plan to shop with you less come back for more, instead? Whether it’s lower prices, better customer service, or a wider variety of products, the answers you get to this series of questions can be enormously insightful for your business.
5. Who do you see as our major competitors?
It’s always interesting to see who customers see as your competitors, as they might be very different from who you see as your competitors. Whether you’re a small local business or a giant online conglomerate, you should be focusing your efforts on competing with businesses that customers perceive as your competition – not the ones that you necessarily see as being your competitors. For instance, if you’re an ice cream parlor, you might think you’re competing against the Dairy Queen down the road. But, in fact, your customers – say, twenty and thirty-somethings who would rather spend a little more for homemade treats than visit a chain restaurant – might have a tough time choosing between dessert at your place and dessert at the cupcake shop across town. That can totally change your perspective.
6. How have our products or services made your life better, easier, or more fun?
You’ll need to tailor this question to the goals of your products and services. A carpet cleaning service may make life better or easier, but it’s probably not necessarily fun. An ice cream shop, on the other hand, may seek to make customer’s lives a little more fun and whimsical than they were before. Knowing exactly how your products and services affect your customers, though, is important, whether you clean carpets or sell the world’s best homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
The truth is that your customers are probably not going to just come out and say, “Well, I almost chose the cupcake place for dessert today, but I decided to come here instead.” But if you outright ask them – through an online or mail survey, a contest, a blog post, or even an in-person conversation – who you’re competing with in their world, they’ll probably tell you.
So take a leap of faith, and begin learning from your customers today by asking them these six questions. Once you get some answers, you may be surprised at how your perspective, business offerings, prices, or marketing plans may change for the better.
Your customers won’t tell you things which may boost your business. Are you asking them the right questions? Share with us in the comments!
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