What customers really want

Marketers and business owners fall into the trap of making business decisions based on their own preferences and reflecting it onto their target customer

Eric Bornman of BuzzSurvey on why movers should look to making decisions based on hard data rather than their own preferences

Mel Gibson’s character in the film What Women Want acquires the ability to hear what women think. The hilarity of the situation aside, as an advertising executive he’s able to outwit rivals using this new skill to differentiate between what he thinks his audience wants and what they actually want. 

Marketers and business owners fall into the trap of making business decisions based on their own preferences and reflecting it onto their target customer. But marketing (and sales) have become scientific, data-driven functions. For starters, advertising is served to customers based on what their online footprint shows they like, share and search for. Sales has become a multipronged approach of content-driven lead generation and consultative customer centricity. 

Success in today’s marketplace is determined by an acute, data-driven knowledge of when, where and what customers like, want and prefer, not an educated guess or even based on what has worked in the past. Based on your selected preferences, Netflix recommends what else you might like. Amazon shows you what other people also bought; successful plays off customer preference. 

The baby boomers made way for Generation X, who will make way for Generations Y and Z. None of these consumer groups makes decisions the same way. You adapt or die, and no-one is immune. 

This modern approach escapes many movers. Having been successful in business doing things a certain way, it is tough to argue against a traditional, tried and tested way of doing things. Progression is often scrutinised, declared as passing fads. The use of technology in moving is no different. ‘Not for us. Our customers want…’, resisting ideas, good ideas, different ideas under the guise of what they think their customers want. This, despite substantial, data-driven evidence to the contrary. 

The introduction of virtual pre-move survey technology proved no different. ‘Our customers want someone to come and see them’ was a common one. ‘They don’t like this video surveying business’ was another. Searching for evidence to prove this, I sat with sales teams observing their approach and was not surprised at their conclusions. A move manager fields an enquiry and needs to a book a survey. ‘Would you like one of our surveyors to come out and see you Ms X, walk you through the property and explain everything to you? Or do you want one of these new video survey things?’

Customers generally (in the absence of alternatives) accept what you sell to them, so Ms X ‘chooses’ a site visit, despite the fact that, as a busy professional, she may well have been better served by a 15-minute after-hours virtual survey. The site visit is subsequently seen as the customer’s choice, not because they necessarily want it but because the traditional move manager thinks they do, based on their own preference. 

Despite putting forward a strong business case, not least of which includes the convenience it offers time-poor consumers, virtual surveys are offered as an afterthought. We are all creatures of habit and there is nothing wrong with having a personal preference, but the point is to be honest enough to distinguish between what you prefer and what your customers might prefer. The only way to know for sure is to offer an unbiased, objective option, aware of the benefits of both options for the consumer and the company and actually letting the customer choose.

“Success in today’s marketplace is determined by an acute, data-driven knowledge of when, where and what customers like, want and prefer, not an educated guess”

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