Despite the old adage ‘curiosity killed the cat’, in today’s information age customer curiosity is vital to business success. Channelled in the right way, curious businesses stand a far greater chance of achieving their aspirations – customer centric engagement, strong and enduring relationships, and the delivery of solutions that achieve goals and solve problems. All this enables businesses to jump on new ideas for improved outcomes, competitive advantage and revenue growth.
“Curiouser and curiouser” cried Alice…
Curious people seek to understand the world through the customer’s lens – what their world looks like, what is important to them, what drives them, and what turns them off. Curious people tend to also be the ones that push boundaries, find new reasons to get excited, suggest new ideas, and uncover new ways to solve problems. So how can you create a culture of curiosity within your business?
Here are seven useful habits of the customer-curious:
- Be curious in how you recruit and retain your people – Look beyond qualifications and credentials and aim to recruit individuals with inquisitive minds. Then provide an environment that empowers them. Give your people the space, time and tools they need to satisfy their insatiable curiosity. Let them learn and practice their curiosity skills and form new habits. In return you will be rewarded with an engaged team that goes out to seek answers, shares ideas, solves problems, and drive your business forward.
- Be curious about customers and prospects – Cultivate an authentic interest your customer’s ecosystem. Seek opportunities to understand their brand, culture, products and services. Look for insight into their problems, objectives, short and long-term goals, and the market reality in which they operate. Focus the direction of your curiosity on the customer and you’ll gain greater understanding their world and how you can fit into it. You will be better placed to predict their needs, what’s likely to happen in their market, and be first with solutions.
- Be curious about people and other points of view – Customer curiosity is as much about building insight into the customer themselves as it is about insight into their business and market. Spot the clues that will help you understand their persona, how they like to work and engage, what is important to them and what will make the biggest difference in their world. If you are curious about the individual, seek to understand their point of view and connect with their story; then you will be able to adapt the way you engage with them to have the biggest impact.
- Be curious about ‘what if’ – Set aside your own agenda, take the focus off your immediate surroundings and goals, stop imposing tried and tested rationales. Instead get curious about ‘what if’. Seek out patterns and trends that no one else has noticed, problems the customer does not even realise they have, triggers that indicate the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Don’t get caught up in the here and now, instead cultivate curiosity in ‘what if’ and you will uncover new ways to innovate, gain first mover advantage, and differentiate service.
- Be curious about new horizons – there is nothing to be gained from hanging onto the ways of the past; ‘old skool’ thinking only hampers new world development. Find new reasons to get excited – how your offering can be improved, new behaviours and ways of working that can enhance productivity, and the tools that can take your business to the next level. Take CRM systems for example – they provide a useful snapshot of activities with your customers and prospects, but are essentially a static environment in a world that is constantly changing. But augment CRM with real-time insight, and you have a game changer.
- Be curious by asking questions – Curiosity by nature demands the asking of questions. ‘Tell, me more about that?’ – A simple question maybe, but open-ended and therefore challenging the customer to share. Find ways to go deeper – join discussions and forums, and look for sentiments and opinions that you can question. But don’t just question for the sake of it. Take the time to listen and you could also improve the way you influence, negotiate and persuade.
- Be curious for the long-term – Curiosity, as we have demonstrated, can be learned, and if practiced can deliver true behaviour and culture change. But curiosity can also wane over time. Invest in tools and training that will enhance curious behaviours, and provide regular feedback on results. Motivate by example through demonstration of how curious activities have made a real difference to customers.