Sensemaking: What are your Customers' Needs? Really?

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Sensemaking: What are your Customers' Needs? Really?
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
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

I Like This Sensemaking Approach
Maria Lairet, Member
I have implemented a very similar approach with my clients in which I have understood their needs, innovate, and come up with an inexpensive solution, but what it's challenging to me it's to make new clients tick.

Customer Behavior and Experiences
kvssiyer, Member
Understanding customer behavior requires much more than just understanding Kano's model and applying that in practice. It needs a deeper understanding of the customer and what exactly he is looking for.
Everything is also contextual. Just because something is better other than the one used in the product based on a clearer understanding of domain knowledge is no reason to make an insistence on the supplier for a rework or replacement. The contract or the purchase order specification is sacrosanct. So in such situations the inspection engineer is to put together the customer and supplier together and if necessary get the commercial settlement done before getting the replacement or the rework to the proposed changes made.

Customer Behavior Approaches
adrian hidalgo, Member
In reality, many people don't really consume "what they should eat" to meet their needs. In case of a new product, they make use of the recommendation of someone close to them. And if a product is already known, they use it out of habit, or emotional aspects that bind with the brand.
Even as an investor before launching a product we should logically begin with the quali-quantitative studies, but these should be conducted as summarized in 3 or 4 categories: as 1. Release is recommended 2. Release is not recommended 3. Release of high investment and low profitability (risky) 4 - Release of standard investment and high profitability. One could make a subdivision by payback time.
Realemente muchas personas consumen "lo que consumen" para satisfacer sus necesidades. Si es un producto nuevo, lo hacen por recomendación de alguien cercano a ellos. Y si es algo ya conocido, lo hacen por costumbre, o por aspectos emocionales que los ligan con la marca. Pero como inversionista antes de lanzar un producto se debe lógicamente empezar por los estudios cuali-cuantitativos, pero estos deberían concluir en resumen en 3 o 4 categorias: como: 1-lanzamiento recomendado 2- lanzamiento no recomendado 3- lanzamiento de alta inversion y poca rentabilidad (riesgoso) 4- lanzamiento de inversión standard y alta rentabilidad (rentable). Se podria hacer una subdivisión en cuanto al tiempo de retorno de la inversión.

Customer Needs ⇒ Behaviour ⇒ Experiences ⇒ Satisfaction
Madan Gopal Agarwal, Member
The customer is an individual entity and her/his needs / behaviour / experiences / satisfaction depend upon the status of ownership of any product or service:
- Needs: Primarily BEFORE having / owning
- Behaviour: Both Before AND After
- Experiences / Satisfaction: Only AFTER
Therefore, the said analysis is to be linked with the status of targeted customer. Each status has its own needs / wants / delights and so forth.
Any unassuming mixing of data or sensing will lead to erroneous assumptions and inaccurate conclusions. This is the core reason why most of such efforts do not give desired results.
Today's requirement is to 'first' understand the current status of the chain of customers - from wholesaler to distributor to retailer to end consumer - and 'then' only to design a campaign to win them.
Another important aspect which needs total clarity is - unless end consumer has purchased the product, no one in the entire supply chain has really sold anything. Only inventory has moved from place to place.

It's Hard to Understand the True Behavior of Customers
Zahra Djebaili, Member
Thank you so much Jaap de Jonge for this approach... I found the term "sensemaking" for the first time...
I agree that it's important, but not easy to understand or predict customer behavior.

Making New Clients Tick
Dr. Luis De La Cruz, Member
In my experience, common sense is not that common to people and new clients are no exception.
Problem solving alternatives make new clients tick when solutions make meaning before they make sense because they fall within the client means; making relevant the core capacities and competencies of the organization to measure itself against the challenge.
Thus, bringing problem solutions within management grasp nears coaching influence on decision making to try and adopt change. The latter is a constant ticking ubiquitously.

Empathy Map for Customer Analysis
Derek Lark, Premium Member
I like the approach shown here. I have also used the Empathy Map which forces clients to look at the customer experience and their perceptions in unique ways. This can move a client from their current paradigms and develop new ways of dealing with customers real needs.

The Empathy Map is a model from XPLANE. It asks the questions, viewed from the customers perspective of your company, what are they hearing, what are they seeing, what are they saying and what are they really thinking. Recently the canvas was expanded to include what are their pains and gains from the jobs they want/need done.
The intent is to get you to think as if you are the customer.
So some aspects are similar to sensemaking. It is but one tool to use in developing strategies, products and solutions as part of a broader series of steps within this activity.

The Sensemaking Process
yanney John Parker, Member
Sensemaking works all right, especially since customers do not value some of the other approaches. For instance data collection and obtaining responses through customer surveys has become difficult. In most cases customers are not willing to complete survey forms simply because completing the form costs them too much time.

Customer-centric Organizations Survive
Emmanuel Mwirichia, Member
Sensemaking is a key feeder into the customer relationship management of an organisation.
By doing this, one is able to change the focus of the organisation to clearly meet the customers' needs and that is what business is all about.

How do You Step In?
Maria Lairet, Member
@Dr. Luis De La Cruz: What you described is very true, but when you are able to do that you have already earned the client's trust. You have stepped in, but how do you earn new clients' trust? How do you spark their interest, so you can step in?

Customer Behavior is Subjective, Contextual and Temporary
kvssiyer, Member
Why the child weeps and what makes it weep is the same as why the customer presents a behavior the we experience. It is rarely logically concluded. It is more subjective than objective.
Also, it is contextual and what worked today may not work tomorrow.

Therefore we need to continuously map the feedback and behavior we experience and attempt to offer modifications and innovations at the least possible cost and with optimal value creation to the customer. Once this process is established it remains valid forever. It is a question of teething trouble.

Customer Behavior is Subjective, Contextual and Temporary
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
@Kvssiyer: Thanks for your outstanding contribution. We might say in marketing, the only constant is the need to continuously monitor and make sense of customer behavior.


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