In 2019, retaining customers is not about witty marketing or clever sales tactics. To be successful, you have to take a step back and design an amazing customer service experience. You have to be able to delight the customer from the very first touchpoint with your brand. And, it all starts with customer insight.
What is Customer Insight?
Customer insight or consumer insight, is the discovery of patterns in customer data.
These discoveries let you understand customer intent, sentiment, and challenges. The resulting information can serve as a reference when making strategic decisions, planning marketing and sales initiatives, prioritizing product updates, etc.
Why is Customer Insight Important?
If you want to deliver a remarkable customer experience, you need customer insights. Customer service experts recommend that you understand your customers to create the best possible experience for them.
Consumer insights help you take your CX to the next level in several ways:
- Personalizing your digital marketing at scale
- Reducing friction along the sales cycle
- Improving your products and services
- Reach out to customers at the moment they need you most
OK, enough theory. Let’s dive right in!
How to Get and Use Customer Insights in 21 (Actionable) Steps
We’ve handpicked 21 tactics you can use to gather customer insights. Use these tips to keep a finger on the pulse of your customer base and enhance their experience.
- See What Your Customers are Searching For
- Conduct Empathy Interviews
- Capitalize on Social Media Data
- Speak to Your Support Agents for Call Center Data
- Look Up Statistics
- Use Google Trends
- Understand the Customer’s Primary Motivation
- Track Customer Behavior
- Measure Ad Engagement
- Run a Quiz
- Find Your Most Popular Landing Pages
- Understand the Stage of the Buying Journey
- View Heatmaps
- Create a Customer Feedback Form
- Conduct a Customer Onboarding Survey
- Do a Cohort Analysis
- Customer Sentiment Analysis is Key
- Uncover Seasonal Patterns
- Watch Brand Mentions
- Track Knowledge Base Analytics
- Understand Product Usage
1. See What Your Customers are Searching For
Use keyword research to understand how your customers search the web. This allows you to find the most relevant search terms in your industry.
In turn, you can create SEO-optimized content for your target audience and PPC ads with a positive ROAS.
Some of the tools you can use for this task include Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.
Let’s use Ahrefs as an example.
Navigate to the Keyword Explorer and type in a topic of interest. Let's use “paleo diet” as an example. Typing this in will show you this keyword is a very competitive term. You will also get a list of related terms.
Going through this list, you can see that “paleo diet recipes” has a much lower Keyword Difficulty.
This keyword is also a bit more specific and clues you in on user intent, potentially making it a better match. So if you create content around this keyword, you should be able to:
- Still reach a fair amount of potential customers and
- Have an easier time ranking on the first page of Google
This form of customer insight is relatively easy to come by and can translate into money savings for you.
2. Conduct Empathy Interviews
Empathy interviews show you what your ideal buyer feels across touchpoints. This knowledge can enhance your market research efforts and messaging.
Unlike the standard Q&A format, empathy interviews are less structured. The goal is to focus the conversation on the customer and allow her to you her story.
Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Ask neutral, open-ended questions
- Set aside 30 to 45 minutes for each conversation
- Aim for 5 to 10 customers per each target market you’re researching
When you’re done, start analyzing and tagging the responses to discover patterns. You can relay the resulting list of insights to your product or marketing team, or outsource it to a digital marketing agency.
3. Capitalize on Social Media Data
Facebook, in particular, has enormous amounts of personal data about each one of us. Whether you’re doing customer research or running paid advertising, this gives you insight into your target customers.
Interests of people who like specific pages, use a particular type of software, etc. are examples of what you can see.
Here’s how this looks in real life: (For our example, we entered “United States” in Location and “Tony Robbins” in Interests).
Besides the demographics, we can also see related pages this audience likes by switching to the Page Likes section. This report tells us that people based in the U.S. who follow Tony Robbins are 87x more likely to follow Tim Ferriss.
Now, you can build a realistic customer persona and content with higher engagement.
4. Speak to Your Support Agents for Call Center Data
Your customer support agents interact with customers daily. This puts them in the perfect position to have a deep understanding of your customer relationships. Couple that with the data from your CRM call center, and you have jet fuel for business decisions.
A few things you can learn:
- Recurring issues. Are you getting the same complaints over and over again? If so, this can be a sign of things like a defective product or a poor onboarding experience/unclear instructions.
- Customer sentiment. Are you receiving a lot of negative feedback (or positive feedback)? Your ability (or lack thereof) to handle customer issues directly impacts customer experience.
- Customer expectations. Do customers expect your product to work in a particular way? Do they have a preference with what communication channels your business operates on? Find out what customers want, and you’ll be able to create better marketing and sales campaigns.
- Sales and marketing trends. Are people calling to ask about specific promos? Are your agents fielding a lot of questions regarding a new product update or release? Your agents and call center data can give you a better idea of when and why customers are making purchases. Paying attention to these trends should allow you to increase sales.
You can use Nextiva’s virtual call center as a central customer intelligence source.
5. Look Up Statistics
When you’re doing consumer research, you might refer to statistics databases such as Statista or official government reports. This is one of the ways to estimate potential market size in a given niche.
Statista, in particular, aggregates its data from a variety of sources and contains customer insights on thousands of topics. For example, if you’re interested in creating a product for iPhone users, you might want to look up how iPhone sales are trending.
6. Use Google Trends
Google Trends can be an essential customer research tool in your arsenal as you can measure interest in a specific topic worldwide. You can use this information to guide your SEO efforts or even as a way to find new market segments.
Suppose that you have an e-commerce store for healthy low-fat snacks. A quick Google Trends search shows you that more people are searching for “weight loss snacks” than “low fat snacks.”
Knowing this, you might try to optimize your product descriptions for “weight loss snacks.”
7. Understand the Customer’s Primary Motivation
Figuring out what drives customers to choose your products or services enables you to segment them and tailor the experience accordingly. That’s why one of the most important questions to ask is, “Why did you buy/sign up?”
This can be as simple as sending an email as soon as someone becomes a subscriber or a customer.
Paper Style, a wedding stationery website did just that and had a remarkable ROI.
Based on prior customer research and their first-hand experience, they decided to ask the question, “What are you planning for?” There were only two possible answers: your wedding or a friend or relative’s wedding.
The company created a series of tailored emails for each group of subscribers. As an example, brides-to-be received emails about wedding invitations and favors.
Their friends and relatives received information about bachelorette invites and bridal shower tableware. As a result, Paper Style saw a 300% lift in revenue per email.
Once you’ve found the patterns, you can ask your customers to segment themselves as Paper Style did.
8. Track Customer Behavior
Insights about customer behavior can help you optimize your entire buying journey. Here are a few examples:
- Lead generation. Tools like Google Analytics reveal what visitors tend to do after seeing a specific landing page which helps you estimate the performance of this page and adjust your strategy.
- Customer engagement. Suppose that a website visitor downloaded a free ebook. As soon as you know this, you can start sending them personalized emails and offer related products or services.
- Customer retention. You can track customers who visit your FAQ page and trigger an email to ask if they need more help.
Let’s see how you can put this into action. Airbnb is an excellent example.
If you don’t book a place to stay, they send you the following email on the next day.
By the way, such emails have 152% higher open rates than regular email campaigns, so it’s worth sending them.
(If you use Nextiva for your CRM, you can send out emails to customers at the right time with the right message).
9. Measure Ad Engagement
Gone are the days when you could run annoying ads as long as you paid for them. There is so much competition for online ad space that search engines, social media sites, and other platforms have gotten quite picky about who gets a spot.
The reason for this is simple. These companies don’t want to annoy users with irrelevant ads. That’s why both Google and Facebook have algorithms to measure the quality of your ads.
Ad quality is a valuable source of customer insight because it can help you understand what type of content a specific audience is most likely to interact with. Besides, if you track your quality score, you will be able to create more compelling advertising which can lead to more customers and lower ad costs.
To see your Quality Score in Google AdWords, go to Keywords, click Modify Columns, and then scroll to Quality Score. You’re typically looking to get a minimum quality score of 7, though it depends on keyword intent.
You can find a similar report in Facebook Business Manager. When you log in, switch to the ads tab, click Performance, and then Customize columns.
Type “ranking” in the search bar, and you will see the three engagement metrics that Facebook uses to determine how relevant your ad is.
Here is a handy table that tells you exactly what to do. Of course, it depends on the values you get for each of these metrics.
10. Run a Quiz
Quizzes are a form of interactive content, and statistics show that interactive content is 80% more likely to engage your customers. Plus, the average quiz gets shared 1,900 times.
This is a very effective way to gain insights into each individual’s preferences and interests.
You can capitalize on this customer insight in a variety of ways, e.g. filter out the emails of a specific group of customers, upload these emails to Facebook, and run retargeting ads.
11. Find Your Most Popular Landing Pages
Here is another low-hanging fruit that doesn’t require any special skills or knowledge. Your top landing pages help you understand what types of content your customers are most likely to engage with and where to direct your marketing efforts.
Open Google Analytics and head over to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Here, you’ll be able to see the content your users visit and how they respond to it.
What can you learn from such a report? First, filter posts with average pageviews.
Then, to improve time on page, it's worth creating content upgrades and free resources for download.
12. Understand the Stage of the Buying Journey
Modern customers hop between devices, social sites, review sites, and many other online or even offline locations before making a buying decision. That’s why you might not be able to optimize your entire customer journey, but you can optimize for the micro-moments that matter.
The first step you can take in this direction is to find out what people are searching for on your website.
If you have a search bar, and Google Analytics installed, this is quite straightforward. Head over to Google Analytics and open Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.
What can you do with this information?
Your top search results can help you identify content gaps on your website. Based on how many searches you get, you might decide to create articles around these search terms.
13. View Heatmaps
A heatmap shows you how people engage with your content — where they click, how much they scroll, what distracts them.
This type of customer insight is especially helpful when you need to determine how and why a landing page is not converting or when you’re trying to pinpoint usability problems.
The “hottest” areas are the ones that get the most clicks. Coupled with website analytics, heatmaps can give you a better insight into what’s working and help you decide what changes would be worth testing.
Are there buttons they’re supposed to click but aren’t? Are there non-clickable items that they are trying to interact with?
Some of the most popular heatmap tools include CrazyEgg, Optimizely, and Hotjar.
14. Create a Customer Feedback Form
A customer feedback form helps you measure the level of customer satisfaction while also uncovering potential issues and selling points.
An effective, easy-to-implement feedback form is the Net Promoter Survey (NPS). The idea is to ask customers to rate your product from 1 to 10 and, potentially, follow up with a “What is the reason for your score?” question.
An NPS survey is a small effort for the customer, which means that you are likely to get a lot of responses.
The results can be sorted into three groups:
- 0 to 6: Detractors—not thrilled with your product
- 7 or 8: Passives—somewhat satisfied
- 9 or 10: Promoters—your biggest fans
Digging into the responses to the follow-up question, you will be able to figure out what your customers liked or disliked in particular.
How to use this data?
You can feed it back to your CRM to use it for marketing, sales, and customer service.
15. Conduct a Customer Onboarding Survey
The customer onboarding process is where customers first navigate product or service. It's the perfect time to make the product more "sticky."
Using customer onboarding surveys can help you find out more about a customer’s pain points and how they’re looking to use your product.
Armed with such insight, you can improve your entire customer experience — from personalizing your marketing to increase retention.
MailChimp does this very well. When you create a new account, they serve you with relevant tips based on a small survey you answer.
At signup, MailChimp asks several questions. One of them is, “Do you sell things online?”
If you answer with a Yes, the app will nudge you to connect your e-commerce store when you first log in.
Instead of waiting for a customer to email and ask how to connect their online store to MailChimp, the platform tries to understand the customer and offer help proactively.
Next, MailChimp sends you a Welcome email with tips and tricks related to e-commerce.
To run an onboarding survey, you can use software such a TourMyApp and Appcues.
16. Conduct a Cohort Analysis
A cohort is a group of people that share similar traits. Cohort analysis can help you identify groups of customers that exhibit a specific quality, e.g.
- Trial signups in the past 30 days
- Paying customers in May
- Customers acquired via social media ads
One of the numerous ways to use a cohort analysis is to calculate your customer retention over time. SaaS companies often employ this tactic, but it applies to other businesses, as well.
17. Customer Sentiment Analysis is Key Too
Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, you can dissect all of your existing customer reviews without reading them one by one. This process is known as sentiment analysis and lets you see the big picture by showing you trends in your feedback data.
Using Natural Language Processing, sentiment analysis tools can calculate how positive a given review is. They produce a sentiment score that shows how happy your customers are.
18. Uncover Seasonal Patterns
For some products, seasonality is common sense. You don’t need to do extensive research to know that, in the Northern Hemisphere, beach towel sales will peak in June, July, and August.
But, a lot of times, the numbers might not be what you expected.
Did you know that weight loss products trend the most in winter and then again in summer? The same research found that exercise-related searches were most common in winter months. Perhaps New Year’s resolutions have a lot to do with these spikes.
Here’s another surprising example. You’d think that ugly sweaters, candy canes, and Christmas trees sales would peak on the same date. But, that's not the case as real-world data is a bit more nuanced than that.
The bottom line is that your products or services could also be susceptible to seasonality even if it’s not apparent at first sight.
To spot seasonal trends, you can use a tool like Google Analytics. If you have your conversion goals and e-commerce events set up, this information is just a few clicks away.
19. Monitor Brand Mentions
If a customer is unhappy, he will most likely complain online, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be on one of your social media channels. A bad review can be anywhere on the web, and it can easily escape your attention.
Monitoring brand mentions helps you stay on top of the customer sentiment. It also helps with reputation management and measuring campaign effectiveness.
You can start getting notifications about your brand’s mentions with Google Alerts. Simply enter the brand name, and you will begin to receive daily emails.
Unfortunately, this can quickly get overwhelming if you have to process thousands of mentions per day. In this case, you can opt for a full-blown reputation management app like Mention. The platform groups your mentions by source and allows you to respond within its interface.
By the way, you can use such tools to conduct competitive analysis or to identify influencers.
20. Explore Your Knowledge Base Analytics
Your knowledge base can give you many insights about your current customers. Features requests, common troubleshooting items, which content is helpful, and more.
All you have to do is browse the list of searches that customers make and quantify the results. If 100 people have looked for a specific term, you may want to create content around it.
Diving deeper, knowledge base analytics can also help you pinpoint potential product improvements. If people keep searching for ways to do a specific thing with your product, consider making it more obvious within the interface.
21. Understand Product Usage
You and your team can capitalize on product usage data in several ways.
For marketers, this can be a source of inspiration and a way to improve their content. In 2016, Spotify unearthed usage data for a successful marketing campaign.
For support reps, product usage data can help prevent churn. E.g., for a SaaS platform this could be the time since the user last logged on.
Support agents can contact those that haven’t been active recently and ask them if they are experiencing any issues.
You can start improving your customer experience bit by bit right here and right now.
We’ve shown you 21 ways to gather customer insights using tools that are right at your fingertips. This is a great first step towards getting to know your customer base, but it’s also just the beginning.
Once you start to pull customer insights, you will face another challenge — scattered data. There are dozens of data sources, including social media posts, customer feedback forms, order data. The next step is to plug these sources into a unified dashboard.
What if you could, say, juxtapose self-service requests with call center interactions? Or track social media support requests all the way to your ticketing system?
To build a complete view of your ideal customer, you have to connect all your sources into a single CRM solution.
Nextiva CRM can help.
Emil Hajric is the founder and CEO of Helpjuice - a powerful knowledge management software company. Emil is an organizational learning expert & author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.