There are many different types of data you can gather to create a product or solution focused on your customer. In this guide, we will discover some of the most popular types of evidence and touch on how they can be applied to ideate solutions and products.
We will focus specifically on:
Qualitative Customer Data
The first topic is expert data. When we talk about experts, we are referring to industry experts or neutral parties. These are people in third-party analyst firms that are not supposed to favor specific companies. The data that these analysts have is uncensored. So what does that mean?
Your customers sometimes provide negative feedback, but often, they give mostly positive feedback and are afraid to share negative or real feedback. These experts over have insight in the real feedback from these customers. Looking at this real feedback allows you understand exactly what your customers are thinking, where their concerns are, and where they are looking to grow.
These analyst firms not only have "blanket" or neutral reports you can read, but you can also pay to have private data gathered. So, one of these firms can survey customers as a neutral third party, gather data, and objectively share it with you. These types of surveys are not cheap and will never mention your name, but contain useful overall research on your target market and where they are going, what they want, and what they see as future trends. As I mentioned, you do not conduct this type of expert survey yourself.
Understanding these market trends will allow you to formulate market strategy and cater to your customers and what they really want. Having an overall strategy that aligns with your products and in turn aligns with your customers will ensure you are building things that your customers need and will buy.
Qualitative data is data that cannot be measured using numbers. It refers to questions and comments from customers. Qualitative data is best compiled by companies that already have customers and an established business. It’s much harder to get potential customers to talk to you about what they want in a product if they don’t even know what the company is and who you are.
However, for companies that already have customers and can sit down and gather this data, it is key. Often, companies take their best customers and form what they call a "customer council." This council meets regularly about what they are looking for and what they would like to see from the company. These are not "check-box" surveys, but multi-day workshops in which data is gathered to help with product and solution vision and strategy. Customers usually want to tell you what they want, but you need to provide a forum where their opinion is heard. My guide on active listening skills will help you ensure these customers feel heard—and are heard.
Putting these select customers on a council gives them a sense of responsibility and allows you to gather great qualitative customer data for your solutions.
Quantitative data refers to data that is collected and analyzed in numbers. Often, this involves customer surveys that you conduct to help you understand what your customers need and what they are looking for. You can check out my guide about conducting effective surveys to help you put these together.
The bottom line on these is that they are important for quick analysis of a specific feature you are looking to build or solution you are considering implementing. However, even if you do put an open-ended question on such a survey, your best bet for deep customers insights is still going to be qualitative customer data and customer councils.
These quantitative surveys are important if you have an idea in mind and need some quick yes/no or good idea/bad idea feedback.
Becoming a customer-centric company is hard, and many companies say they are customer-focused, but the reality is their focus is still inward. Using these three types of data and analyzing them will help you truly focus your products and solutions on your customers.
We only focused on expert and customer opinions for a reason: those are your sources of truth for what customers think. If you rely only on employees to build what they want, you won’t ever become a customer-focused company. But if you listen to the experts (who are talking to your customers) and your customers, you can build solutions and products that match your customer needs.
If you build things that your customers want, you will sell a lot more products and be able to beat your competition. Additionally, your customers will feel heard and valued, which creates great future relationships and keeps them coming back for more.