February 15, 2023

Understanding and Meeting Customer Needs, Wants, and Expectations

Marketing & Innovation

Clayton Christensen, the business guru, and Kim B. Clark, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, note that of the 30,000 new products launched yearly for consumers, approximately 95% fail. That's a high rate of failure by any measure. While nobody who launches a new or improved product wants to be in that 95%, it's often difficult to know which steps are best to take to improve your odds of success. 

A good place to start is by asking:

"Does our product or service meet identifiable customer needs, wants, and expectations?" 

Many organizations turn to extensive formal market research to find an answer to this question. This research can be beneficial, but an often-overlooked step is first getting out and talking to your customers. The field of Customer Experience (CX) has the right tools to help you better understand your customer base and gather insights through research to inform better and influence decision-making. If you want to determine whether you're meeting your customers' wants and needs, who better to ask than the people using your product or service?


Listening to Customers

Customer Experience has many capabilities and tools to help your organization better understand if they are meeting their customers' needs, wants, and expectations. Customer research is one of the tools that organizations can utilize to gain insight if they are meeting the needs of their customers. This research involves gathering data through an 'outside in' approach, which means you speak to your customers when they interact with your organization's brand.

An organization should identify the various types of customers they support. Each segment of your customer base may have different needs, wants, and expectations; each will determine the product or service you choose to provide to them. The key to successfully serving your customers is to  assess your core target segments and align your products or services to them. Once you identify your customers' needs and wants, you can work backward to create the right product or service for your customers.

Even for existing products and services, it's good to talk to your customers regularly to ensure that you're fulfilling their wants and needs and understanding their preferences. For example, a customer has a job or a goal to accomplish with which your organization can help. 


Interesting Concept

For example, a customer has a well-maintained lawn but needs a new landscaper. First, they assess their needs and then research to find the best candidate to meet those needs. Similarly, customers do the same thing. They determine what they need to fulfill a void and find the best option available; however, these wants, needs, and expectations regularly evolve. Because of this constant shift, consistent customer research is something for which every organization should strive.

Understanding and meeting customer needs, wants, and expectations example

What Motivates a Customer?

Learn which questions your customer ask during their "interview" with your product or service, or "What motivates a customer to engage with your product or service?" Like most brands, price, quality, convenience, effort, and time are high on customers' lists. Determining which factors 'win' depends on the product/service, the person, and the context.  

For example, when it comes to buying gas, frequently, the winning factor is convenience. Gas is a commodity that functions the same regardless of the brand. Thus, many drivers will not drive out of their way to save pennies on the dollar.

Other factors to consider are brand loyalty, member associations, etc., but there are always questions to remember:

  • Why are people considering your product or service? 
  • After the purchase, is it meeting their needs and wants as expected?


Collect Customer Feedback

A customer will rarely stop to put helpful information in a suggestion box. What's more, if you fail to provide something as simple as a suggestion box, it's even less likely that the customer will call you to tell you why they like your product or service. Therefore, you need to contact them to determine why they are satisfied.

You can do this with surveys, direct phone calls, focus groups, email, and social media. It's essential to be sincere in your questions, ask only questions you genuinely want to know the answer to and respect the answer. 

If you have a physical branch, consider having someone on-site to ask customers why they are making specific purchases. Have conversations with your customers — as many as you can. In addition to learning how to make and sell products that answer their wants and needs, you're also building a relationship with customers and fostering loyalty to your brand. People like to give their opinions, and they'll remember when you ask for them.

How you capture customer feedback is vital to help drive the application of the learnings most effectively. Several Customer Experience tools help to bring customer needs and feedback to life like:

  1. Personas
  2. Customer Journey Maps
  3. Needs Assessment
  4. Service Blueprints
  5. Empathy Maps

Download our guide to journey mapping, which provides tips, a real-life example, and an editable template.  

Customer Journey Mapping Guide


To succeed in the market: 

  1. Anticipate the customer's response to your product or service. Trust your intuition when predicting responses, as long as it's grounded in customer testimonials and other relevant data.

  2. Make business decisions more than a guessing game and keep a pulse on what customers need, want, and expect by talking to them.


Take Action

Many organizations will capture customer feedback but need to do something with the data and insights they receive. The key to creating more positive customer experiences and capturing a stronger connection to your brand is taking action on the insights you receive through customer research. Then, develop action plans to help you utilize the insights to design and/or build better products or services for your customers.  

Create an entire feedback loop that allows you to identify your target customer segments, consistently gain feedback through customer research, and utilize the insights to build better products or services that meet your customers' needs. Finally, remember to take action on your customer data and insights, leading to higher customer satisfaction and stronger brand loyalty.

Customer research represents only one capability of Customer Experience, which falls under the concept of "Customer Understanding." To deliver differentiated and unique value to your customer base, an organization has to consider investing time into improving the following CX capabilities: Customer Understanding, Customer Experience Vision/Strategy, Customer Impact Measurement, Design and Innovation, and Customer-Centric Culture. Identifying your customer needs is an excellent start to improving your "Customer Understanding" capability and maturing your CX practice.  

Learn how to create personas, customer journey maps, needs assessments, service blueprints, or empathy maps. Fill out the form below, and we can get you on the right path.

Vik is an Aspirant Senior Engagement Manager within Marketing & Innovation. He is a senior marketer and customer experience strategist with extensive experience in CX measurement, user experience, design thinking, customer research, market research, and customer experience strategy. He works with various corporations as a consultant to help them grow their business through strong strategy, marketing plans, and skills development. He has worked with companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 1000 as well as mid-sized companies in a range of industries, with a focus on healthcare.

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