How to observe customers with your product or service

If you already have a product or service, understanding how your customer interacts with your brand can help you to work out their pain points. This information is particularly useful when refining your marketing approach and can aid in storytelling your product or service.

The intimacy of observation allows you to get a true understanding of customer interaction and to cut through the potentially inaccurate interview answers.

The reality of a customer’s day differs from what they will tell you in an interview or survey or even what they believe they do. This can mean that observation can provide entirely different results to interviewing and thus should be conducted where possible.

B2C methods:

  • Observe shopping behaviour: Go to a store and observe your potential customers, looking for particular patterns of behaviour.
  • Shadow your customer for a day: Follow your customer (with their permission) on their day and write down all their tasks, pains and gains with a time-stamp.
  • Stay with the family: Stay at a potential customers’ home for several days and participate in daily routines, learning what drives the person and their behaviour.

Before undertaking any of these methods you’ll need to do some planning:

  • Work out which buyers and behaviours you are most interested in observing
  • Preselect the location or environment that best suits the chosen activity
  • Make sure that the timing is correct and fits with the customer’s day
  • Use notes, pictures, sketches and videos to record your findings
  • Be a fly on the wall and focus on observation rather than interaction.

B2B methods:

  • Work alongside clients: Observe the client through working with them in a potential consulting engagement.

Important factors to keep in mind:

  1. Retain an open mindset and acknowledge that your interpretation can be based on experience that the individual might not have had.
  2. Capture both what you do see and what is discussed about feelings and emotions
  3. Adopt empathy as a critical tool to allow the process to be undertaken effectively

This method will allow you to understand some of the real patterns of behaviour shown in your customers, but can prove difficult and time consuming to arrange.

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