Understand customers with fewer assumptions

Assuming less and understanding more is a key to delivering the right products and best experience for customers and their needs

Daniel Bulut

July 6, 2020

Understand customers with fewer assumptions

Designing a new product with assumptions is one of the biggest problems that businesses face, yet one of the most common. Whether the product is a physical good, service, website or system, building it based on assumptions and little research is costly.

Making assumptions is easy, heck, we all do it. The brain saves energy by making assumptions, it’s simply how we’ve evolved. We draw on our past experiences to find patterns in how things work. When we encounter new challenges and situations, we apply these patterns to the new environment – assumptions.

Sure, assumptions are crucial to surviving in everyday life. It’s how we’ve evolved, right? Assumptions help us judge if it is safe to cross a road and understand how another person is feeling by their facial expression. Assumptions work well when we have limited information about an event, where we must assume to make a sense of things. Most of the time there is a way to get information before needing to make assumptions, all you need to do is a bit of digging.

Putting assumptions into perspective

Assumptions cause problems once we start believing our way of interpreting a situation is the only way to interpret that situation. When it comes to human interaction, everyone brings their own experience into seeing particular things. We all experience life differently. It’s what makes us unique.

To help avoid making an assumption, question;

  • What might be going on for the other person?
  • How might they be seeing things?
  • What else might be going on that we haven’t considered?

Once you start asking yourself questions about others in a certain situation, you can automatically see that your experiences aren’t the only experiences. You’ll see that;

  • The way you see something is only one way of seeing it
  • The way you feel about something is only the way you feel
  • The way you understand something is only your understanding

For one, something might seem very logical, but for another, it can be downright confusing. We often see this among logical thinkers. They tend to consider that all people must think in a certain way and they design their products accordingly. When people have a dissatisfying experience with this product, the logical thinker gets upset, often for the wrong reason. They wonder “why are they doing that?”. We have to accept human behaviour as it is, not the way we would wish it to be.

So, what’s the best way to avoid making assumptions?

Understanding, research and testing. A solution created with an assumption is likely not to work, or at best, not work to its full potential. Taking a step back before developing a “solution” from assumptions is important. Investing in relevant research to understand your actual audience can save you a lot of time and resources, especially in the long run. Testing and adjusting the solution is critical in determining if it is right. What’s the worst-case scenario? There’s no way you can assume everything before conducting research and testing. In the best-case scenario, your broad hypothesis may be right, but you’ll find valuable insights that you wouldn’t know and implement prior to the research and testing.

If a customer likes your business and continues to like you, they are going to continue supporting you and even recommend you to others. Collecting customer data for in-depth knowledge and valuable insights takes a lot of work that many businesses don’t consider as they don’t see the immediate value. The lack of awareness in the value of research and understanding can undermine the success of any product, even business as a whole.

It’s proven that by placing a great focus on customer experiences, businesses stand to increase consumer satisfaction while earning more sales and boosting their market share. To deliver to the needs of customers, drilling down into research, data and insights is essential. Testing that it will work is critical.

Risks of making assumptions

You take all the liability of a failed end product if you’ve created it with assumptions. Real insights and testing reduce this risk of failure. Creating a solution customised to the problem from data and statistics is a no-brainer.

Because of the opportunities that arise from using modern technology, customers often rate businesses on their digital customer experience first. Technology has empowered customers to get what they want, whenever they want, and how they want it. Once you’ve created an assumption-based product, you don’t know what they actually want, how they want it and when they want it. You won’t know that you’ve failed until it’s too late. Today, 1 out of 26 customers complain, the rest leave. If you can’t deliver what the customer needs, they simply move on and look for a competitor that can.

Sometimes, businesses just want to create the best product possible and attempt to do-so by overengineering it. Most customers don’t need to be astounded by what a product can do. They simply want their needs and concerns to be heard and addressed. Investing in research and testing often saves money in the end.

Experience is critical, it determines how fondly people remember their interaction with the product. When a product doesn’t suit their needs, customers can become confused, frustrated and even angry – all negative emotions. When there is understanding it can lead to a feeling of control, mastery and satisfaction – all positive emotions.

You wouldn’t expect a doctor to prescribe their patient with serious illness based on assumptions of seeing a few symptoms. They’d need to conduct their research and tests to be able to diagnose the patient with such an illness and then prescribe a suitable treatment. Making assumptions in such a scenario could be life or death for a person, as it could for a business. So why should you invest a substantial amount of resources into a treatment you’ve assumed without real insights and testing?

Here’s to a less assuming society

The benefits of assuming less are substantial. From a business case, assuming less and understanding more can go a long way to delivering the right products and best experience for your customers, and in-turn be the key to your business’ goals. From an individual level, assuming less about others can help towards creating a more functional and just society. Spend time to understand the roots of a situation before making an assumption. You will learn a lot.

Remember that customer experience optimisation is an ongoing process. No matter the nature of your business, taking the necessary steps to understand your customers continuously is always worth the effort. Consumer behaviour is constantly changing, as well as industries as a whole.

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