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What Will Your Customers Want a Year From Now?

What Will Your Customers Want a Year From Now?

Story Highlights

  • Predicting customer behavior has high stakes right now
  • Knowing what to look for in your data can save your business
  • Codify your customer experience and expand your reach

Predicting customer behavior can feel impossible right now.

How can you know whether customers will want the same products and services next year that they wanted a year ago? Volatile markets, customers' concerns about their personal health (and personal space), and shifting consumer habits and attitudes have significantly altered predictive analytics and demand forecasting.

When the stakes are as high as they are now, inaccurate predictions can cost you more than a bad earnings season. It could cost you the company.

Gallup's advice is to use the customer data you currently have (or can easily get) to help predict customer behavior -- the basics of behavioral economics -- to identify what motivates your customers' behavior in this new environment. Indicators like how to design a successful customer experience, where you should lean in and where you should step away signal your most significant opportunities, and right now is the time to codify those customer experiences.

The trick is knowing what to look for.

Analyze your products and services utilization.

Start with what you know about your customers -- what they value in your brand, what they need from businesses like yours, what the world looks like for them.

The first quarter of 2020 upended a lot of expectations and desires, and an in-depth analysis of customer segmentation and your products and services utilization can show you where you're meeting the market.

For example, look for the bright spots: where sales are increasing, which segment is buying, the mix of products and services they prefer. That information is the key to unlocking organic growth opportunities.

Some organizations are doing this well -- such as healthcare companies constructing telehealth delivery through services utilization data, and restaurant chains constantly evolving their food service mechanisms and offerings based on customer feedback and competitor analysis -- and the ones that do best, Gallup analysis shows, are the ones able to innovate toward what customers want right now.

That's the key.

Rethink the customer experience.

Every single customer contact matters. But what matters to customers may be different now -- and to win every interaction and experience, you must commit to changing what needs to be changed to preserve, improve and multiply customer contacts.

Overhauling the customer experience is easier to do when the status quo has disappeared; indeed, leaders worldwide are telling Gallup that several years have accelerated many of their plans and corporate aspirations.

Just bear in mind that, harsh as it sounds, customers do not care about your problems. They care about theirs. They want an experience that aligns with your brand promise, and their own needs. For instance, Gallup workplace analysis shows that problem resolution is, ironically, a huge problem when the process resolves the company's problems rather than its customers'.

Any weak spot in how you show up for your customers undermines the experience that brings people back.

Expand your reach.

Your customer data will reveal opportunities to capture market share even in categories exhibiting declining growth.

But broadening the market may require some creativity: maybe remessaging, repackaging and/or remarketing the product, or even retargeting and pivoting to a different audience.

Think about the tech companies that revamped video editing software for remote workers' videoconferences. Albany-based Creatacor shifted from making conference display equipment to developing temporary hospital beds. Remember when Popeyes introduced a chicken sandwich and customer lines were so long they caused traffic jams? Store sales jumped 42% -- even Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil was surprised -- and stock prices bounced 4%.

None of those companies invented anything new. They just reformatted a stock product and exploded an existing market.

Move forward.

Gallup's advice applies to any leader, anywhere, anytime -- but it is even more critical during a disruption. Companies that mine their data to learn what their customers want will bounce back, and companies that don't will struggle to recover.

To win, a company has to be truly customer-centric. And building a customer-centric culture requires an exceptional experience that revolves around them and not you.

That means analyzing your data and knowing where you're weak, where you're strong and where your best opportunities lie.

Learn everything you can about your customers to survive this crisis and come out better than before. All companies have a success story. Writing yours is just ahead.

Use data to deliver what your customers really want -- and achieve organic growth:


Ed O'Boyle is Global Practice Leader for Gallup's workplace and marketplace consulting.

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

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