Why would you want to ask questions?
Let me tell you…
To demystify the unknown, and therefore, opening up an ocean of possibilities…
This was nicely outlined in this TedX talk by Mike Vaughan. Great leaders know how to ask questions that inspire creativity, fuel passion, and most importantly, spur people into action.
Without any customer, you don’t have any business. But worse, it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain existing ones.
Fair to say that we are better off understanding our existing customers and retaining them, right?
Which means that we have to be good at asking questions.
We had the chance to host a webinar with Alan Klement, an author, business owner, and coach. Alan is a specialist of the Job-To-Be-Done Framework, author of the great book “When Coffee and Kale Compete”. In this article, we highlight the main topics discussed in the webinar, but we have also added additional pieces of information.
Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty-gritty and nail down the different steps to growth through customer understanding.
Why Is It Important To Understand The Customer?
Why is the consumer, or customer behavior to a business?
The purpose of any business is growth — even a non-profit company wants to grow, right?
Growth means they still want consumers of that product or service. So even if it is trying to start fighting Ebola in Africa, we want to somehow persuade people in some of these areas to consume our vaccine or our change that we think will help improve them.
Without getting people to actually consume what we are creating, then we don’t have a business. Understanding the customer is therefore all about understanding its behavior, why it does things this way.
If we understand how they behave and under what circumstances, then we can figure out how the customers will react to any product change.
By truly understanding the customers, we are able to make him or here use more of our product and therefore be more satisfied with it, and continue to pay for it.
One way of understanding the customer falls down to using surveys, which lead us to our second part…
Why Do Surveys?
Alan nicely quoted Edwards Deming in his presentation:
Scientific data are not taken for museum purposes; they are taken as a basis for doing something. If nothing is to be done with the data, then there is no use in collecting any. The ultimate purpose of taking data is to provide a basis for action or a recommendation for action. The step intermediate between the collection of data and the action is prediction.
This essentially reminds us that there is no point in collecting data if you don’t know what you are going to do with it, what questions you want to answer. The aim is to get accurate data, and it requires having an intent behind it. This is the cornerstone of every survey, and help you ask the right questions supporting your goal.
As an additional note, in her podcast episode in the Growth Hub Podcast, Claire Suellentrop from Userlist.io doubles down on the fact that surveys and interviews are meant to understand the “why” of your customer, what is their Job To Be Done, their intrinsic motivation to switching to your product.
On a final note, Alan pointed out that
One-on-one interviews with consumers is a great way to start sourcing good questions, the right way. However, once you feel like you have a good idea of what questions to put in front of people, then automating it through a survey is much cheaper and easier. You can scale in a way that one-on-one interviews cannot.
In a nutshell, there is no good survey without a proper definition of the goals and premise of it beforehand.
The Must-Haves Of Any Good Question
Inspired by this
First and foremost, you have to develop empathy. The person responding to your questions hasn’t been through the same experience as you, hasn’t experienced the same things as you, and you can’t assume he or she will be able to understand your question.
You have to really strive for empathy, and try to put yourself in this person’s shoes.
Focus On The Words
Words matter, make sure to get your point right across, and avoid sleazy or fluzzy words.
Be Informed About Your Surveyed Person
You likely have a lot of data, you likely have already run surveys before, and you need to use this data properly. Make sure to not ask any information about something you already know, or you have already asked before.
Ask Simple Questions
You don’t want to ask questions containing technical or unclear jargon that will be completely bewildering to the end person. You want to ask questions that are easily understandable and make sense.
What Makes a Survey Question Bad?
A bad question is either inaccurate, non relevant, hard to answer or very subjective.
Which leads Alan to give the example of the Net Promoter Score question. Arguing and explaining why he does not recommend using it.
First off, you’re asking someone to self-assess themselves, right? That’s an even worse than that. You’re asking them to self-assess the probability of something in the future. “How likely are you to do some action in the future?” You’re asking the person to one, being able, to be honest with themselves and to self-assess themselves correctly.
The second point about NPS is that it’s a numerical question, and numerical scales are subjective and interpretive. Which make it very different from one company to another, and doesn’t make much sense to benchmark.
Measure the NPS Score with the promoters and detractors
He then goes on over a few recommendations, such as having the respondent to rank the answers, which is an easy and very understandable question.
You are also better off starting with easy questions and finish off with tougher questions. Such a tough question could be asking your respondent to report on constraints or goals.
The point is to make the experience easy and smooth for the end user, but also relevant to what the customer is currently experiencing.
Alternative To The NPS Question
An alternative to the NPS would be to break that question into multiple ones.
You could start off with: Have you ever recommended our company to someone you know? Yes/no/Can’t remember.
Then, if they say yes, you ask how many people they recommended.
The next one could be: Are a lot of your clients tech savvy or a lot of your friends? Yes, no, not sure.
And you can finally give him an open-ended question.
There are a lot of things to consider before doing any survey, and writing down any question, and you must be aware of those common pitfalls. There are also common templates you can use, and adapt them to your needs. These tips apply to surveys, but they also apply to questions for your sales email or your interviews.
You can read more in our customer feedback guide.
If you want to get deeper, there are also some good question templates in this article written by Scott Berkun.
Once you’ve compiled your feedback and are ready to spread your message, take a look at this guide on how to amplify your content to the right audiences.
Watch the full webinar below. 👇
Also published on Medium.