Context Is All: Gaining a Better Understanding of Your Customers

Delivering customer experiences (like, the amazing kind that attracts new customers and keeps the current ones sticking around) is hard, because CX is an ecosystem now. The modern customer experience goes beyond your product. CX is every single interaction your customer has with your business, from the start of the sales cycle to the most minute interaction within your product 5 years down the line.

If the modern customer experience goes beyond their use of the product, so too should the ways you gather customer data. Quantitative data is vital to understanding your users and how and when they use your product. However, to truly grasp how your customers are interacting with your business—what they need up and down the customer journey—you need context. Context is everything. It is all.

Gathering context requires different methods of collecting quantitative and qualitative customer data. In turn, you get meaningful insight into not just your product, but something more fundamentally important: your customer’s journey.

Going Beyond The Product

According to the “Win with Customer Experiences” survey, nearly half (47%) of the IT leaders and enterprise architects surveyed stated that ignoring or the inability to track customer needs was the biggest pitfall in delivering CX. Ignoring customers needs outside of your product is hazardous to the customer journey.

Your product is a just another milestone on the customer journey map. Not only do you need to understand the user wholly within your product, but outside of it as well.

Take for example, YouTube. YouTube’s product is clearly the best of its kind. It’s a video player that easily lets you upload videos, discover and watch videos, and create communities around your video content. There’s not much else to add to or improve. I recently subscribed to YouTube Premium. To add my husband to the plan felt like I had to move mountains. The product works. The experience, for me, doesn’t, and is why I still have only a personal membership.

This is just one example of why it’s important to understand the customer and their context beyond the product.

Getting Out and Talking to Your Customers

Want to truly understand your customers? You need the right mix of data and you need to expand where you find it.

The Right Mix of Data

If you’re a B2B SaaS company, you probably have analytical instrumentation. It’s impressive how much data we can collect from our users in our SaaS products. Heatmapping, click and scroll tracking, log-in frequency, bounce rate, are all incredibly useful methods to giving you insight as to how your customer is using your product. You can use this information to develop a new feature or improve a current one. However, those findings need to be augmented with qualitative data too. Which is why a lot of companies pair their UX behavioral research with attitudinal research, to not only understand that a customer isn’t, say, logging in as frequently, but why they aren’t.

Your customers are humans with feelings,
frustrations, and bliss.

You need context because your customers are not a Seurat-esque collection of data points from your monitoring tool that paint a picture of your user. Your customers are humans with feelings, frustrations, and bliss. Which is why that analytic instrumentation data (behavioral) should be paired with Attitudinal research. The right mix of the two types of research can give you the “clearest view of a design problem.” You can understand the motivation of your users and therefore decide what to do (or not do.)

Win/Loss and Expansion/Churn Interviews

What are the tools we use to get qualitative and quantitative data outside of the product?

NPS surveys are useful, but like the instrumentation I describe above, the results do not paint the whole picture.

A good way of understanding your customers on either side of the sales cycle, and outside of the product is to conduct win/loss (pre-sale) and expansion/churn (post-sale) interviews. The point of these interviews are not merely to understand why you won or lost the deal or why the customer chose to stick with you or not. They provide insight into the buyer’s interaction with the business.

The interviews are conducted after a sales cycle, and have to be structured in an open-ended way. Open-ended questions might reveal:

  • Information about the competitors that you won or lost against
  • How clear (or unclear) your product is marketed or talked about in discovery calls
  • the context of how a call or email was received
  • Feelings about the post-sale side of things like your billing processes, your customer success team and their processes, your customer service phone tree
  • And maybe a little about the product.

Customer Advisory Boards

Another great method is to host a customer advisory board, which allows you to have conversations with a select group of customers telling you what’s working and what’s not, in your product and outside of it. An added bonus is that you foster networking among your customers, which allows them to share best practices.

Conducting these interviews and hosting regular advisory boards is very much part of the customer journey too. Being on an advisory board can make customers feel heard and special.

Activating Your Findings

Eventually, after you pore through the transcripts of these interviews, you start to identify patterns of behavior. Because these answers were given genuinely and without leading questions, the patterns of information you see will also be genuine, which then leads to a more genuine improvement of the way your customers interact with your business.

A Little Buy-in Never Hurts

Another thing you need to better understand your customers is buy-in into programs like these. Or, if you’re in a leadership role, you need to give the go-ahead to your product management and product marketing teams to get this vital information. If you’re serious about improving customer experience, you need to invest in programs like these.

Context Paints the Whole Picture

The customer journey requires you getting a holistic picture of your customers and treating them more than a work of data pointillism. Learn to understand your users, their joys and frustrations inside and outside of your product. It’ll help you find improvements in places that you wouldn’t have ever considered before. Context is all.

If you’re interested in more information, do read Context Is All: Gaining a Better Understanding of Your Customers blog from Mendix.

Post by Sheryl Koenigsberg

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