What your customer surveys can tell you. Are you paying attention?

“Know your customers” is the first commandment and a fundamental mission of every (successful) company.

Do you know your customers well? Who are they? What do they need? How/when/where do they need it?

When searching (website, mobile, or voice), it’s critical to “listen” to customers – their search interactions, which are your way of saying what they want.


  • Do you listen and can you respond?
  • How can you develop a solid strategy for the search experience?
  • How can you act as a personal search concierge to guide users to the content, products, or services they are looking for?

To really “know” your customers and what they want, think of yourself as a reporter.

Good journalists learn the 5W (and 1H) of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how. They know that if you ask the right questions, you will get closer and closer to the right answers. When listening to (through their surveys), ask the following six questions.

1. Who are your customers?

Before you can provide effective customer research experiences, you need to know who your customers are. There is no need to develop a defined and fictional “client character” such as “45-year-old woman, lawyer, two children, lives in San Francisco.” This can be limiting. What you want to know is: what’s important to your company – what do they like?

2. What are your customers looking for?

As customers “speak” during the survey (and some can speak using voice survey), listen for the problem or pain point they are trying to resolve. What do your specific searches require? If your company offers legal services, you can “hear” these surveys: “How do I start a business?” or “What are proxy documents?” Then, you will know that your are going through personal or business situations that change their lives and are looking for help from your company.

3. When do they look for your customers?

Continuing with the legal example, do your clients look for information in the middle of the day, for example during lunch hours? In that case, we recommend that you make accessing the modules as easy as possible. Or maybe they write “talk to the lawyer” at night. Then you might consider making available legal experts outside of business hours for conversations or chats. If clients are looking for legal documents during the day, they can fill out and print the documents before going to court that day. In that case, you can include links to state and local court websites which, in turn, provide location and time information.

4. What are your customers looking for?

How tech-savvy are your customers? Do they watch mostly on the laptop or the phone? Current research shows that 70% of mobile searches lead to action in an hour, so it’s important to think of a strong mobile strategy. Also, according to Google, 75% of smartphone owners try to search first to resolve their immediate queries or problems. You want to find where they are.

5. Why are they looking?

We already know customers are trying to answer a question or solve a problem. But why do they look alike in a specific way? A customer can use a voice survey to ask “What are the best eggplant recipes?” Notice that he asks a complete question as if he were talking to someone else. Maybe he’s at home, using voice polling as you prepare to prepare dinner. In this case, natural language search is better; and without the need for scrolling or navigation, personalization and easy-to-understand results are essential. You can better guide the customer to the best result if you understand their intent.

6. How are they searching?

The last “W” is an “H”: How. How do your customers look for specific information? How do consumers look for information about, for example, Amazon Echo on their own computer? How do they look for specific items in voice search compared to text-based search? Do they use a full sentence or a two-word sentence when talking to a device? Do your text-based searches contain fewer words? By understanding ‘how’ research, you can anticipate needs, even create new content, offer new services, or add (and deliver) new product features.

Analytics data can help you capture a lot of the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of research. This logged information, including bounce rates, site time and unsubscribe rates, may even reveal what services or content may be missing from a company’s website, mobile site or app.

Search is often the only channel customers can use to say what they want. It can also be your best opportunity to build credibility, engagement and brand loyalty with customers, leading to an ongoing dialogue that drives business results.