Successful companies around the world have one significant differentiator – they know exactly what their customers want. According to a survey by marketing solutions provider Yesmail Interactive and market research firm Gleanster, most marketers only have basic transactional data or demographic information of their customers like gender and age. While there is a lot of technology that exists to help you understand a customer’s journey, very few companies still know exactly why a customer buys their offering. While you can make assumptions based on the customer’s actions on your website, product, etc., at the end of the day, they will be just that – assumptions.

So, how do you avoid assumptions and understand what your customers really want from you? Have a conversation with them. While this might sound like an obvious option, it is often blatantly ignored. Marketers, salespeople, UX designers, etc., sit around and debate endlessly on what a customer wants without ever talking to them.

Like Des Treynor from Intercom says, “It’s oddly similar to how people are happy to discuss relationship problems with a radio DJ and her two million listeners, rather than, dare I say it, talk to their partner.

Today, technology offers you many different options to know your customer – Social media, surveys, email communication and support. All of these are great ways to connect with your customer, but each comes with a little downside of its own.  Email works, but only after you have a customer base on your own. Plus, email surveys are designed to only answer questions that the firm has already thought about. Social media is great but comes with the risk of being impersonal.  

The one technique, which is incredibly effective but also underutilized is – to just pick up the phone and talk to your potential or existing customer.

Why is this? Because every conversation with a customer is a potential data gold mine for anyone who is invested in giving customers the best experience possible.

Conversations with your customer can provide a lot of insights into what they want, and sometimes even into some things that they want but don’t yet know they want it. This, when coupled with the power of technology can potentially explode growth for any company.

Here are 4 ways that a customer conversation can positively impact your business.

1. Understand their pain points:

The whole point of knowing your customer is to understand (and anticipate) what they hit a wall with, and how you can help remove their roadblocks for them.  

Every conversation is a conduit to your customer. It gives you precious insights about what makes them like your product, why they hesitate to buy even after they like your product, and what aspect of the product is really important to them.

Talking to customers before they have the product opens us up to the frictions in the buying process- what is it about the product that they don’t see as immediately useful? What feature is excellent, but not useful to them? What matters to them?

Talking to customers after the purchase of the product can give us insights into how they are using the product vs. how you had envisioned it, what part of the onboarding process in not immediately clear- thereby gradually uncovering missing pieces in your business. Keeping track of customer calls could lead us to uncover frequent issues that require an update or introduction of a new feature altogether.


Neat eats, an e-commerce portal that sells fresh, tasty and hygienic meats to customers employs 3 simple policies for customer service. They respond to every single customer call. They make sure they pick up all calls within the first 2 rings. Both their service and products are constantly tweaked by listening to customer call recordings and analyzing what customers like and don’t like.


2. Know what they need from you:

Knowing your customer means paying attention to what they say, but also how and when they say it. A telephone conversation with your customer is the closest you can get to learning your customers’ thoughts, fears, wants, desires and language by chatting with them over a cup of Starbucks.

Customers are looking for solutions that solve their seemingly common, but annoying problems. Oftentimes, it so happens that a customer has an obvious problem, but is not necessarily looking for a solution because he doesn’t know it exists/ or that it can exist. In such cases, how do we know them?

It is by listening.  While listening, you are paying attention to the tone and inflexions in the voice, the language they use to describe their problems. Listening helps you look at the words used to describe what your product does for them, what it does not do.  Why is this information so valuable? Because it is first-hand and unadulterated.

Here’s Frank Eliason,  Global Director of Client Experience Team at Citi, on listening – “Truly listening is hearing the needs of the customer, understanding those needs and making sure the company recognises the opportunities they present.”


We practise this at Exotel by setting aside time to listen to our customer call recordings on a daily basis. Listening intently has helped us hone our pitches, refine our tone and vocabulary during customer calls, sometimes even catch.


3. Be time-sensitive to their requirements:

Customer acquisition costs money and effort. When multiple touch points are required even after acquiring a customer, costs escalate.   

There are certain phases with your customer that require intense interactions. For example,  the “first touch phase” of your product often requires a lot of interaction. Your customer might be using the product differently than you intended. The persona of the user could be different than you imagined. Customer conversations during this phase can be used to improve the onboarding and delivery process effectively.  Similarly, there are other specific timeframes – like immediately after a feature addition, or 6 months into using the product where conversations can be very meaningful. They can reveal remarkable insights to not just your customer service department, but into the whole journey of your product. These are conversations crucial to getting the reviews, testimonials and word of mouth marketing for your product.


Listening to immediately-after-sales calls from our customers over a period of time helped us feed it back to our on-boarding process and streamline it. It helped us train our sales customer service representatives with real call scenarios rather than just (imaginary) simulations. We also fed this information back to the sales team, which drastically improved our sales, because, all the call data enabled us to be proactive about their user scenarios and relate to them better. Knowing when your customer needs you most is a very important outcome of listening to your customer.


4. Know how they are finding you:

Companies that have overcome the challenge of building great products are left with the challenge of getting the word out to the most relevant audience. Studies say that marketing spends are inevitably growing, with almost 30% of those spends allocated to digital marketing. Yet, marketers are left in the dark when it comes to knowing the real ROI on various marketing channels. Different marketing channels require different flavours to your messaging and knowing where your customers like you best becomes a non-negotiable input to your marketing strategy.  

This could mean tracking the pages your customer browsed on your website, or it could mean tracking search terms on Google. It could mean tracking an affiliate link they came up, the solution(not the product) they came looking for. It could mean having a conversation with them to know how they found you. Or it could mean making it as natural and easy for them to pick up the phone and call you.


Nearbuy (Formerly Groupon) recently tracked their ROI from Facebook ads Google ads and other display networks by simply getting Exotel to set up a unique virtual phone number (at no cost) for every campaign to track responses.  ROI on non-digital platforms like print, TV and Radio campaigns with multiple virtual numbers has also been achieved through this unique tracking system.

To truly understand the customer, it is important to understand their full range of choices as well. As psychologists know, we are more likely to listen to problems that fit your own offerings leading us to get blindsided and miss opportunities. The best way to know your customer is to train yourself to see the world through their eyes, and keep your own eyes- and ears open while you let them talk!


Manisha Mishra

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