Sensemaking: What are your Customers' Needs? Really?
Customer Behavior Approaches
There are many approaches towards analyzing customer needs, customer satisfaction, customer behavior and customer experiences. They range from market data analysis and conjoint analysis to Customer Satisfaction Surveys (e.g. Kano)
, Lead-user or Opinion Leader
studies, (User) Co-Creation
, Focus Groups
, Mystery Shoppers
to Design Thinking
, Analytical CRM
, and lately: 'Big Data'.
The Problem with Quantitative Approaches
Most of these quality assurance and marketing methods can give detailed results, but don't give much fundamental insight in what truly makes your customers (and your non-customers) behave in the way they do
. These tools don't tell you what are the often irrational motives behind your customers' (buying) behavior. Often these are unknown even to themselves...
Truly understanding what makes your buyers 'tick" (and buy) is a skill that becomes more and more important in our age in which both our way of life and the technological possibilities to support it change quickly.
A Profound Customer Behavior Approach: Sensemaking
Madsbjerg and Rasmussen suggest a quite different and refreshing human-oriented technique to discover customer needs they call 'Sensemaking'.
Based on insights of Anthropology, Sensemaking is an instance of Phenomology
(the study of how people experience life), and is defined by the authors as: "the process of revealing the often subtle and unconscious motivations informing (consumer) behavior".
If done well, sensemaking can lead to fundamental insights informing product development, organizational culture and even business strategy.
The Sensemaking Process
The authors describe a 5-step process for sensemaking
1. Reframe the problem (in terms of customer experience
2. Data collection (raw, open, not hypothesis-based)
3. Find patterns (look for underlying, root causes
4. Generate new key insights
5. Implement in initiatives (traditional innovation process)
Sensemaking is not easy, but worthwhile to explore if you want to understand in a profound way what business you're really in, what makes your buyers 'tick', and discover new, innovative and creative ways to fulfill their deeper needs. Even if these are irrational and driven by unconscious motives unclear to themselves.
Article: Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen: An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar... HBR March 2014, pp. 80-88.
Book: Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen (2014): The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems