Listening to different groups of customers: Existing customers, the customers of your competitors, and non-customers

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There are many different types of customer feedback – each with different sources of insight. This article explores reasons for seeking a diverse range of customer opinions.

Listening to your existing customers

One of the most important sets of customers to listen to is your existing customers. These users are most experienced with your product offering and may have suggestions for ways that you can improve your features or service.  

Some of the things that you can learn from existing customers include:

  • Areas that your product and service can be improved
  • Dimensions that would encourage them to buy more of your product
  • The key reasons that they choose your product over those of your competitors

Of course, if you only listen to your existing customers though, you may risk over-focusing on existing customer needs. That is what it is also important to listen to the customers of your competitors and non-customers. 

Listening to the customers of your competitors

Another important group of customers that it is useful to gain input from is the customers of your competitors. These are individuals that likely have similar needs, but have opted for a different firm over yours. 

Things that you can learn from speaking to the customers of your competitors include:

  • What are areas that they prefer about the competitor’s products over yours
  • What are sources of switching costs that would make it difficult for them to switch to your products
  • The extent to which they even considered buying your product in their decision making process

Listening to non-cusomters

A final, and often overlooked, set of customers that it is important to pay attention to is non-customers – individuals who do not currently purchase products from your industry, instead choosing to go without the service or to use a substitute industry. Listening to non-customers can help ascertain:

  • Why they don’t currently buy products from your industry
  • What would help convince them to either make the switch from a substitute product and begin purchasing
  • What are the key things that they would miss if they were to switch a different offering

Final thoughts: There is still need for focus - don't try and cater to everyone's needs

While it is useful to listen to a range of customer opinions – more broadly than just individuals who buy your products – it also comes with the risk that you will lose focus by trying to cater to everyone’s needs. Having focus is important – it helps give customers specific reasons to come to your products relative to those of your competitors. Thus, while gaining input from a diverse set of possible customers is important for identifying areas that you can easily improve, there is a trade-off of trying to be all things to everyone (while failing to meet the needs of any particular group). 

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