There are many different types of data and gathering that need to be done to generate solutions and products for your customers that fit their needs. What you originally think may be the best solution might not always be after you collect the data you need.
In this guide we will look at gathering data through primary and secondary sources in order to develop customer-centered solutions. I also recommend you look at my guide on creating personas to understand fully how to put your customer on paper.
There are many ways to gather data, and it’s important that you understand how to use them because you will get all kinds of different data depending on how and what you ask your customers.
The simplest way to look at this is to consider the two different kinds of data: qualitative and quantitative
Qualitative data is subjective data, or data that cannot easily be measured. This data is made up of opinions rather than facts. For example, you might like one picture more than another but that doesn’t mean that the picture you like better is in fact better. This kind of data would include a customer’s opinions on how a feature worked, or the functionality and whether they liked it. It would probably be data that is gathered through questions requiring full-sentence answers instead of multiple choice questions.
Quantitative data is data that can easily be measured and tracked, and probably graphed and charted. This is not an opinion but instead based solely on fact. For example, whether a piece of storage holds 1GB or 2GB is a quantitative piece of data—it is a number and fact. Because this data is numbers-based, you'd collect it from customers using methods like multiple choice. It’s also a fun way to put together charts and graphs to easily look at things.
Qualitative data and quantitative data are both extremely important. However, most people find that quantitative data is easier to manage and analyze because it’s based on facts. Qualitative data will give you opinions, which you should be using, but realize that two customers could have totally opposite opinions so it is often much harder to figure out what to do with that data.
Primary data is data that you collect as the person who is doing the research. For example, if you are doing a survey with your own customers or running a customer council, that would be primary data.
Many times customers will give you positive feedback via primary data when it is not anonymous. This is especially true when you have a good relationship—people often struggle giving negative feedback or delivering bad news to someone’s face. This data is still very important, and customers want to feel heard so collecting this data is something that should be done.
You want your customers to know that you want to hear from them and that you are open to ideas and suggestions, even though they don’t always tell you what you would like to hear. People want to be heard, so make sure you collect this primary data frequently.
Secondary data is data that is collected by the someone other than the person/company who is using it, or third-party data. You would hire an analyst or market research firm to anonymously collect secondary data. People are much more apt to give negative feedback in this type of setting because they are not talking directly to the person who created the product or solution, so they don't feel that they are going to hurt anyone’s feelings.
It is recommended to collect secondary data, and if it is qualitative that you have it recorded and/or transcribed because you do not want this data to be interpreted by a third party before it gets to you. It is your job to interpret the data; you are the one who is going to be creating the product or solution with the data, so you need to fully understand it.
You have gathered all different kinds of data:
Now you need to take this data and create solutions that work for your customer and what they need based on the research. The research you are doing is both time consuming and expensive, so don’t let it go to waste. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is doing the research and then going with their gut. Don’t do that. Create solutions that your customers are telling you that they want. This kind of research is truly a gift and can save you a lot of time and money in the long run if you interpret and use the data correctly.
For example, if you believe the customer needs a feature on a software product and your data tells you that they don't, don't add it. Just because you think they want it doesn't mean they do. Listen to the data.
Ask yourself this: if your solutions are not customer-centered, what are they? Because they should be built for your customers. If they are not built for your customers, who is going to buy them? You need to ensure you are building solutions that people want and need.
If you are building solutions people want and need, you will sell a whole lot of product. If you are not building solutions that people want and need, you probably won’t sell much or if you do, you will not have repeat customers.
Remember: the customer is always right, especially when you are building a solution for them.