Getting to know your customers can be a game changer. Capturing the Voice of the Customer (VOC) refers to their collecting valuable feedback about their experience with your business. Through research, you may gain new insights to better empathize with your customers. Peachy suggests a few simple ways to conduct low-cost research without completely interrupting daily operations in your small business. Don’t be afraid to let customers know what you are doing. Invite them to be a part of your business’s success story.

Surveys -Draft a short survey and send it out to clients. Survey Monkey,  Mail Chimp, and Google Forms have free services you can use. Temper also has a fun interface for quick responses uses happy or sad faces. You can also use hard copies for customers visiting in person.  Tip: Practice your survey on internal staff before sending out to check for any unintended biases in the language or general logic flow issues.

Observation Customer behavior is often more telling than their words.  When asked for ideas or how you can improve your business, they often get stumped. Have you ever heard the quote from Henry Ford, “If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said, ‘faster horses’?” Just observing your customers can tell you a lot. Pay attention to what customers are doing, talking about, interacting with while they are engaging with your service. Do their actions match their words? Are there any unspoken distractions or frustrations that you can address? Are they stressed? Anxious? Excited?  Try to spot patterns. For example, do they always seem restless, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable? Are they in a hurry, excited or impatient? Is there a thing they all often fumble with – even though they never mention it? What is their general mood? What are they hearing, smelling, seeing? What insights can you draw from your observations?

Interviews – Request a brief interview with cu stomers. The easiest way is to tack on a few questions to a follow-up call with customers or while they are waiting. Offering an incentive, like a small discount or coupon for their time, can increase receptivity. Remember, just because you are asking, they may not be telling you everything, since they know the feedback is not anonymous, but you can often get a sense of what they are really thinking. Try to identify the driving emotion behind what they are saying?

Social Media – Using social media platforms to find out more about your customers can be invaluable. Businesses can follow their customers on social media to find out what their interests are and how to connect to them more effectively. What is the lifestyle, who are their influencers? Businesses can also use social media to ask their followers questions about new products, services before launching them. Using polls and posts to start conversations is a more conversational way to engage with your customers. Sites like Mention even help you capture and follow what people are saying about your business when you are not listening.

Peachy’s partner, Keyhole Research offers custom packages for those interested in deeper consumer research.