Understanding the Customer and Customer Needs


By

Mounica V
Faculty
Department of Management Studies
AMC Engineering College
Bangalore
 


"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so."
                                                                                            
                                               -Mahatma Gandhi

The above quote explains how important a customer is to an organization and stresses that all the organizations who desire to build a market share should understand the needs of the customer.

Introduction

Understanding the customer is not an easy task as it appears to be or sounds to be. It is very important and sensitive bedrock for success in marketing a product or service. This is the reason why many marketers strive to understand the needs and requirements of the customers so that they can formulate better marketing stimuli or work out the product or service which delights the customer.

As it is known that "every customer has needs" and the main task of the marketer is to trace those needs properly and serve them to meet the expectations of the customer. Many of the customers could not chalk out the requirement of one's own. It means that they may have a broad and vague idea of product or service but may not be able to identify the core components of the product. Here, lies the success of the product or service and wowing the customers with the product or service.

Tools for catching the pulse of the consumer

In order to trace these needs, one has to undertake market research. Even though, marketers use many a types of research tools, the following are the basic tools through which the needs of the customer can be traced.

1.  Survey: As one of the best methods for market research, marketer can analyze a sample group about the features of the product or service and can enhance the services or modify the product according to the expectations of the customer. The survey method would be successful, if the sample size is large as the data collected would be reliable. Many marketers follow this method to get the feed back from the customers. The feedback of the survey depends upon how the survey is conducted.

    a. In-person surveys: these surveys are conducted where the flow of the customers would be more i.e., places like cinema halls, super markets and shopping malls. By using these surveys, the marketer can distribute new samples of the products, present the advertisings and gather immediate feedback. The only drawback of this survey is it is costly which involves lot of time and labor.

    b. Telephonic Surveys: these surveys are less expensive than the in-person surveys. These surveys are desirable if the target is general population. With this type of survey, re-contacting the customer for clarifications becomes easy. But the disadvantage of this survey is it is costlier than the mail survey and it is becoming very difficult for the tele-callers to convince the respondents to spare some time just for survey.

    c. Mail Surveys: This is one of the traditional surveys used. This is less expensive than any type of the survey but it consumes lot of time and most of the times, the marketers may not get back the responses from the target population. The success percentage of this survey is very low compared to all the other types of surveys.

    d. Web surveys: Surveying through internet or web has gained popularity rapidly. Marketer can use this type of survey, if the population is specific (internet users). If the marketer chooses a famous website (but a related one) to post the survey, just in a snapshot of time, the marketer can get responses from the customers across the globe in few hours.

2. Focus Groups: A qualitative technique where a group of people are questioned about their opinions, beliefs, attitudes towards products and services and perceptions. As the respondents are free to talk about the product without hesitations, the marketer can trace out the underlying needs of the customers.

3. Personal Interviews: As the survey is based on questioning the respondents personally, the marketer can identify the points easy what the customer wants. The reason here is this type of interviews goes beyond the verbal expressions. But this is again a time taking method but a successful method if the product the marketer is discussing is purely personal.

4. Customer Observations: This is one of the recent techniques used by the marketers in which videotapes are arranged in the place where the products are displayed in the mall and the marketer can easily find out the responses of the customers, how enthusiastic they about the product or service and how they buy it are.

5. Field trials: This survey is mostly used in recent times where the products of the company are displayed in attractive shelves in selected stores and hyper markets and he responses of the customers are traced by using cameras and sometimes sales representatives would be explaining about the product if the product is brand new and takes the feed back from the customers about the price, packaging and further product modifications. This is a trial and error based survey where before introducing the product into the market, the Company could better understand the preferences of the customers.
 

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Source: E-mail December 2, 2010

          

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