I was outside a local coffee shop when I overheard two girls talking next to me. They were discussing how they were glad they came to this place when the one girl said something like “I’d rather come here then support a fricking corporation who doesn’t need more money.”
Hm, that's telling. I’ve overheard countless comments in lines, dressing rooms and restaurants. Many of which contained valuable information that I think the owner would have loved to know in order to better understand their customers. It’s creepy and kind of icky though for business owners to eavesdrop on unknowing customers. Instead, a much less creepy and potentially even more effective way for you to get into your customers’ heads is to simply be a customer at your own business.
So here’s a simple, three-step exercise for your to get into your customers' thoughts -
1. Plan to become a customer.
Okay, yes, this does require an awful lot of distancing yourself mentally from your business, which is near impossible. But, if you can be present in your experience at your business as a customer, you may gain highly valuable insights into what actually matters to your customers and what doesn’t. Think like your average customers are thinking - “I’m just going to run in here quick and grab a coffee.” Or think like a new customer would be thinking “I’m going to try this store that I heard of to find a gift for a friend.” To get really in a consumer mindset - plan to do it during a set of errands, just frequent your place as a customer, like it’s normal. Let your employees know ahead of time what you’re doing (and that you’re not crazy) if you think that’d be helpful. Also, plan some time to be a customer at a competitor's business immediately after.
2. Be a customer - twice.
Go to your business and a competitor's as a customer. When you’re there, take note of all your senses - how everything smells, sounds, feels, looks and tastes (if applicable). Note how hot it is in the dressing rooms. How much the cookie crumbles. How fast the items were packaged. If it felt efficient or shoddy. If your decor was cohesive or charmingly eclectic. Ask yourself if you’d go here again or if you’d rather try some place new next. Ask yourself if there is anything magnetic about this place.
To make this whole experience easier, I’ve made an easy, one page print-out form to help you note your experience. You'll want to print out two copies - one to use when evaluating your business and one for evaluating your competitor's. Click below to get the form.
3. Evaluate and compare.
When experiences are in words on paper, they seem to become less ethereal and more real. You can more clearly see issues and address them as you see best fit now that they are in black and white. Compare your businesses strengths to your competitor's. See if your business really shines where you think it does. See if there is anything you thought mattered as an owner but that is lost in the customer experience.
Does this seem like a good idea, but You don't have the time to do it?
Do you want free, confidential insight?
Just click below to request a free customer analysis of your business and a competitor's. I'm looking forward to it!
If you decide to be an "undercover customer" at your own business, I'd love to hear how it goes. Please leave a comment letting me know what insight you gained!