Understanding how to provide the best possible customer experience is all about addressing your customer needs. While this can seem like a simple process, there are many complex ways that customer needs interact with your product/service. Organizing customer needs on a shared board can be one of the most effective ways to visualize these needs and create a strategy to meet them.
In this article, we will define customer needs and run through their importance and we’ll walk through 5 simple templates that help address and prioritize them.
What are Customer Needs?
Customer Needs Definition
Customer needs are the motivations that the consumer has to use or purchase a product/service. Their needs can be known or unknown, and either way will have a decisive impact on what they use/purchase and why they do so.
Customer needs can be broken down into many different factors that push people to use or purchase a product/service, and in order to understand their behavior, it’s important to break down their needs and the reasons behind their decisions.
There are three different kinds of customer needs: Functional Needs, Social Needs, and Emotional Needs.
Functional customer needs are defined by what will help the customer achieve an individual or shared task. These needs are mainly defined with the purpose of reaching a certain tangible goal enabled by the functions of a product/service.
Social customer needs are driven by things that the customer wants to be seen using, or wants to build an identity around. These needs are usually only part of the larger picture, but can often determine the final choice that a user makes. Social customer needs are most often based on design differences or aesthetic choices that make one product more socially desirable than another.
Emotional customer needs are also secondary to functional customer needs, but in this case, they relate to how the user wants to feel when using a given product/service. These needs are largely based on user preference and personal history. While it can be hard to target these needs, for certain consumer bases they can be good indicators of their use patterns.
Why are Customer Needs Important?
As previously mentioned when discussing the specific types of consumer needs, they are critical when addressing the purchasing patterns and reasoning of customers. Additionally, at their core, customer needs represent the identity and personal requirements of your user. These details are foundational when creating empathy with your users and building bridges between your product and your customers.
Possibly the biggest reason customer needs are important is that fulfilling them is required in order to ensure user satisfaction, loyalty, and to create a flawless customer experience. All of these things can be achieved by creating a product/service that enables customers to satisfy their unique needs and desires.
How, then, are you supposed to gather and organize your customer needs?
Online whiteboards provide the perfect tool to integrate visual collaboration into a structure that prioritizes consumer needs. There are many pre-made templates that help organize your user needs and create strategies to address and tackle them, some of which we will address now.
Creating a Persona Map is one of the first steps to developing a nuanced understanding of your customer needs and is a very easy way to organize the details of your principal user. We define a persona map as “Persona maps are abstract portfolios that represent your principal user. While they are fictional, they embody very realistic attributes that personify your consumers. They usually entail users’ assumptions, attitudes, association with your product/service, and even their personal life.”
The details of a typical persona map are usually very similar to the details of your customer’s needs and creating a principal user to understand your customers is a great way to create empathy for them. After you create an identity for your principal user you can begin looking into the ways you can fulfill their individual needs.
Persona maps create an identity for the principal user, highlight their demographic and personal details, and take a look into their goals and frustrations. Besides simply creating empathy for the customer, persona maps address two of the most important components to customer needs: motivations and frustrations. Prioritizing these sections means you are prioritizing learning about what your customer wants to do and why they struggle to accomplish it, which are the foundations of their functional needs.
Addressing functional needs directly while creating empathy for your principal user makes the persona map a great option for people looking to surface their customer needs.
Customer Journey Map
Customer journey maps are incredibly flexible templates that can be scaled to meet a wide variety of customer needs. Our definition of customer journey maps follows as such “A customer journey map is the visualization of the experience or journey that a customer travels as they are exposed to your product/service. It can follow their tangible actions, their assumptions, or their motivations through each different step of the interaction. It helps you tell the story of your customer’s experiences with your brand across all of their interactions.”
Identifying a customer’s needs through a customer journey map is easiest when diagramming the pain points and intention of each step. Customer journey maps do a great job of breaking down their journey and looking at each segment individually, analyzing how the customer interacts with your product/service and what their intentions are.
When you look at a customer’s journey closely, you are able to expose the problems with their experience and find places that can be revised to improve their ability to achieve their functional needs.
Not only can you improve their ability to achieve their functional needs but you can also locate their intentions when using your product/service. At different points in their journey, they will have slightly different intentions, and as they progress their intentions will change and evolve.
This evolution gives you insight into why they want to use your product/service in the first place, and what their specific functional needs are. When this gets broken down it’s easy to highlight where you can improve your journey and where you can better cater their experience to meet their specific needs.
Retrospective templates are some of the most flexible boards to use and can be easily applied to locate your customer needs. Retrospective boards outline what went well, what can be improved, and the actions that should be taken from your most recent project. This could apply to many different teams but in this case, we will adapt it to finding consumer needs.
Using online whiteboards makes editing the retrospective template incredibly easy, and simply adding columns for customer feedback and customer intentions can transition the direction of your retrospective analysis to focus on the needs of your customer.
Having designated sections of the board to place feedback and intentions makes it much easier to prioritize those in your current project so you can include them in your retrospective analysis later. This prioritization makes customer feedback an important factor within every project and allows you to incorporate this feedback directly into the actions you take going forward.
Listening to your customers is the easiest way to identify and satisfy their needs, and doing so through a retrospective is a great way to make this a priority every single time.
Empathy maps are similar to persona maps but focus on deliberately creating empathy for your customers. We define empathy maps on our QuestionPro article as: “An empathy map is a template that organizes a user’s behaviors and feelings to create a sense of empathy between the user and your team. The empathy map represents a principal user and helps teams better understand their motivations, concerns, and user experience.”
Empathy maps target multiple areas of the user experience which align with what they say, do, feel, and think. These are all important sections to target when analyzing consumer needs and actually impact each of the three main categories of customer needs.
The “do” and “think” sections focus on the actions that your customer takes and how they feel about the general usability, which help expose their functional needs of the product/service.
The “say” section allows you to gain insight into the direct feedback the user provides and also their motivations around using your product/service. This motivational insight is critical to understanding their social needs, or the real reason they’re using the product/service. Aside from their social needs, the feedback you receive from them will almost always be the most important piece of information regarding their experience.
The final section, the “feel” section, allows you to probe into the feelings of your customer and realize their emotional need for the product. Their feelings towards their experience will often display the emotional reason for using the product/service in general, from which point you can understand how to best meet their emotional needs.
With the ability to target so many important customer needs, creating an empathy map is a great way to organize your needs and also target new solutions for your customer experience.
Stakeholder mapping is one of the more unique ways of addressing user needs because it doesn’t relate only to the consumer, but also to the stakeholding interests in your business. We define stakeholder mapping as “… the analysis, prioritization, and diagramming of the various influential parties that are involved with your business. These interests can represent a wide array of stakeholders including business ownership all the way to everyday customers”.
Stakeholder maps generally plot the interest and influence of your stakeholders/customers onto an XY axis where you can sort them based on who should be most consulted with your business plan and who can just be informed. While this doesn’t specifically target customer needs, it does provide an opportunity to understand why your product/service is built like it is and how it can be catered to your consumer base in more effective ways.
Stakeholder mapping allows you to understand not only how influential certain parties are on the trajectory of your business, but also how this trajectory can be harmful to your customer experience. When you break down what parties have the biggest influence you can start prioritizing the needs of your customers, something no stakeholder should have any problem with.
Addressing user needs sometimes requires a deep dive into your product/service and a nuanced understanding of your customer experience, and hopefully, these templates help you uncover these important elements. If you want to learn more about virtual workshops or try and of these boards yourself, make sure to check out Fresco.