What Your Customers Really Want

March 16, 2009

Knowing what customers want would make your life a whole lot easier right? Yet so many businesses just don’t have a clue. They’ll promise to exceed their customers expectations but that’s a flimsy promise and it doesn’t mean much at all.

For a start, how do you know what your customers expectations are to begin with? Theirs maybe be different to yours. And do you really need to do a whole heap better than your customers expect. If you already provide a great service, that should be enough right?

Many people are looking for what your business is offering right now. And all they want are two things. You just need to convince them that you can give them those things.

For example, I need some minor repair work done on my car. And all I want is someone who can guarantee me two things. I want the job done properly and I don’t want to get ripped off. I’ve had so many bad experiences with car repairs in the past that this is important.

And no matter what your business is, this is what customers want:

For you to do exactly what you say you’ll do.
To pay the exact price you say it will cost.

So before you go looking for extra ways to amaze potential customers, make sure you get the basics right. Think about how you can show them that you’ll do exactly what they want and guarantee to charge them no more than the price you quoted. It’s really not that hard to give your customers what they want.

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31 Responses to “What Your Customers Really Want”

  1. Jamie Harrop on March 16th, 2009 11:41 am

    Hey Cath,

    I’d narrow this down even further and say you have to give them just one thing.

    What business boils down to is giving a customer “value”.

    A valuable product (valuable to them because they want it)
    At a good price (good value).

    Give them value and they’ll love you forever. :-)


    Jamie Harrop’s last blog post..Young People in Business – Jack & His Bike Storage

  2. Evelyn Lim on March 16th, 2009 11:59 am

    I was taught that I should always research the market before creating a product or program. The concern is wasting time and effort producing something that no one is willing to pay for. Thumbs up to your suggestion about getting the basics right!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..How To Ground Yourself In 7 Ways

  3. Brad Shorr on March 16th, 2009 12:24 pm

    Cath, Thinking about what your customers want is an excellent practice, but I can think of an even better one – ask them. You wouldn’t believe how many times I ask a client, “Have you asked your customers what they think of this or that?” and the client hasn’t. Sometimes all you have to do is pick up a phone and ask a few customers a few simple questions and all the guesswork is eliminated. That’s one reason a business blog is so useful. It’s a great forum to ask customers things like, you know, questions! :)

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..Take the Online Marketing One Question Quiz!

  4. Mike CJ on March 16th, 2009 12:47 pm

    If I can add to this Cath, the other thing is that keeping pricing simple may lead to more profit! Because I live on a small island, I need to fly everywhere, so I fly all the time. I absolutely hate the lottery of buying air tickets – one week I can go to Madrid for €39, the next it’s €109. I end up wasting loads of time checking the latest offers and often risk not getting a seat. I just wish one airline would come up with a fixed, reasonable price. I’d be happy to pay, say €70, as long as I knew it would always be €70 and I wouldn’t check back a day later to see the price had dropped. I could book all my flights ahead and save myself lots of time, and the airlines would actually make more money out of me!

    Mike CJ’s last blog post..Why you should switch to Google – Part Three

  5. Andrew on March 16th, 2009 1:10 pm


    That sounds like common sense to me.

    If you offer a quality product or service at a fair market price, you are certain to receive custom from a fair portion of those who are in the market for your offering.

    Plain and simple.

    Andrew’s last blog post..Should nightclubs pay for cops?

  6. Annie Anderson on March 16th, 2009 2:25 pm

    Cath -

    Basics are always good. It often amazes me how so many people overlook them, not only in business, but in many other areas of life.

    I can’t even count how often I remind my kids (and husband!) about the basics! LOL

    Good post, as usual.
    ~Annie Anderson

    Annie Anderson’s last blog post..Bring back the old facebook

  7. Vered - MomGrind on March 16th, 2009 4:21 pm

    I agree. I’ve had similar bad experiences with house maintenance. In most areas, all I want is someone who would the job properly for the agreed price. It amazes me how hard it is to come across someone like that, especially in the areas of car and home repair.

    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..The Psychology of Advertising

  8. Trade Show Guru on March 16th, 2009 4:31 pm

    hey Cath,
    You nailed it on this one. The basics are basic.
    When a company hems and haws on giving me a price, or wants to “explain my options” first, I walk away.
    ~ Steve, the trade show guru

    Trade Show Guru’s last blog post..Green Trade Show Displays

  9. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on March 16th, 2009 5:59 pm

    Common sense rules…but you’d be surprised at how many businesses miss that boat by a continent!

    Then again, a competent contractor is rarer than hen’s teeth or a flute-playing moose or …. :)


    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s last blog post..Twitter Affiliate Marketing

  10. Carla on March 16th, 2009 7:45 pm

    This is a great reminder for me. Sometimes I have to remind myself to put myself in my customer shoes when it comes to shopping online.

    Carla’s last blog post..Eco Fashion: Yarn

  11. Jason Cohen on March 16th, 2009 8:12 pm

    You’re dead right of course, but it can be difficult to step back and see your business (or market, in the case of the car repair shop) through the eyes of a customer, especially a lay-customer.

    The things you get juiced up about (fancy new testing tools?) or that you’re proud of (awesome school that impresses other mechanics but which regular people don’t know?) are often not interesting to potential customers.

    But how do you get into their heads? You might need to ask a friend.

    Today though you can use the fact that social media is public. Look on Yelp or Twitter or LinkedIn or forums or blogs for people who have experienced businesses like yours.

    Look what they bitch about and what they love.

    Jason Cohen’s last blog post..How to get quality freelance graphics design work on a budget

  12. Melissa Donovan on March 16th, 2009 9:24 pm

    This is a great reminder that sometimes business is as simple as providing quality service.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..12 Places to Find Awesome Writing Ideas

  13. wilhb81 on March 17th, 2009 7:30 am

    Yep, we should get all the things on set and make it right accordingly, before we offering something extra to our customers, Cath. This is the basic rules of serving our customers’ rights!

    wilhb81′s last blog post..Well-Prepared is the Key to Succeed!

  14. Cath Lawson on March 17th, 2009 11:51 am

    Hi Jamie – That is true. And if the product is good it doesn’t necessarily have to be a low price either.

    Hi Evelyn – I have seen that happen a lot and it’s a shame. Trouble is, some business owners invest a heap of time and money in a product and they find it tough to accept that nobody wants it and cut their losses.

    Hi Brad – That’s a good point. And as you say, a blog is a great way to get feedback on what potential customers want.

    Hi Mike – Flights to Spain vary a lot from here too. And in the school holidays the prices are ridiculous. I too wish they would even it out more. Have you tried Skyscanner? It seems useful for finding the best deals in Europe.

    Keeping pricing simple is a good idea as it makes things easier for your staff and your customers and helps to avoid silly mistakes.

    Hi Andrew – It really is just common sense isn’t it. I was just thinking about the topic in your signature the other day by the way – I’ll be checking it out.

    Hi Annie – That is so true. If folk have to stick to the most basic rules in life, they’re less likely to screw up on the other ones.

    Crime is the same – if we had strict punishment for basic crimes, I’m betting fewer people would go out and commit worse ones.

    Hi Vered – Car and home repair are definitely among the worst aren’t they? In my experience, dentists can be bad too. I switched dentists halfway through a heap of treatment I was having done and discovered that I didn’t need most of the remaining treatments at all.

    Hi Steve – It’s annoying when they can’t give you a price isn’t it? You have to wonder how good the job will be, if they can’t even price it.

    LMAO Barbara – I’ve never seen a flute playing moose before so I’m guessing competent contractors are rare over there too.

    Hi Carla – It’s worth doing that isn’t it? It makes it easier to see what works isn’t it. I did that with this blog ages ago and I couldn’t even find my way round properly. But, often, you don’t realise until you try it.

    Hi Jason – Asking a friend can be a good idea. Checking forums and social networking sites is worth it too. People love to complain, so you soon get a good idea on what sucks.

    Hi Melissa – Simplicity is so important if you want to run things efficiently.

    Hi Wilhb – Exactly, you can still offer extra stuff later once you’ve perfected the basics.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..What Your Customers Really Want

  15. Kathy | Virtual Impax on March 17th, 2009 2:51 pm

    With regards to your car repair needs – what you need is a mechanic you can TRUST!

    The reason that TRUST plays such a significant role in this is choosing an auto mechanic is an example of a “major sale”.

    Many, many service providers don’t understand the role that TRUST plays in the sales process. This is why “word of mouth” advertising can be SO powerful for sales such as finding a mechanic.

    Trust is NOT a major element in some sales (defined as “minor” sales). For example, you don’t have to have much “trust” in your local office supply store that the copy paper you buy will actually work in your copier. It’s a commodity.

    However, when it comes to mechanics, lawyers, doctors and dentists – the stakes are higher. It’s not a commodity and there’s a level of personal expertise involved which takes the sales process to a higher level.

    That’s why I’m such a fan of blogging for these types of professionals. Because they need to establish their expertise with prospective clients/patients/customers as part of the sales process.

    Kathy | Virtual Impax’s last blog post..Selling the “Magic” of Social Media

  16. John Hoff - WpBlogHost on March 17th, 2009 5:12 pm

    No matter how hard we try, we can never truly get into our customer’s heads. That’s why we have to do “the basics”, like you say.

    Make sure you invoke that feeling of “we’ll be here and we’ll take care of you.”

    Don’t just display what you can do, the objective is to make your customer feel with emotion a certain way about you.

    It boils down to a few things, one of them being trust.

    John Hoff – WpBlogHost’s last blog post..Welcome To WpBlogHost and My Blog’s New Home

  17. cathlawson on March 18th, 2009 9:41 am

    Hi Kathy – I guess trust is the important word. And as you say – this need will depend on the service. Some businesses can make a hash of your life way more than others. Imagine if you had an unreliable surgeon – that could really screw things up.

    Hi John – I think your business invokes that feeling really well. I remember you wrote about getting inside customers heads, using personality profiling a little while back and as we discussed, it’s not as easy as it sounds, in a short space of time.

  18. Jannie Funster on March 18th, 2009 5:26 pm

    Oh, too bad you’re not here in Austin. My hubby’s shop has been voted 5 or 6 times the best place to get your car fixed or buy a used one!

    I would say, look around for recommendations. Google!

    Jannie Funster’s last blog post..After May 10th

  19. cathlawson on March 18th, 2009 10:54 pm

    Hi Jannie – Austin is on my possible “to move to list”. So at least I won’t have this problem if I move there.

    Coping with the heat in the summer is a big concern though – I’m guessing the temps are v similar to Mexico. It is probably warmer there in the winter than what it is in the summer here.

  20. Barbara Swafford on March 19th, 2009 8:05 am

    Hi Catherine – No truer words spoken.

    What I’ve seen happen often is a business will promise something, and even put it in writing, but then the “contract” has loopholes and when all is said and done, the customer is ripped off.

    What we do in our business is give a price for the complete job. No loop holes. In the event they ask for something extra, they know ahead of time, it will cost more – and that too, is stated.

    When things are spelled out, people feel more comfortable dealing with you. it comes down to a favorite saying of mine, “walk your talk”.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Where Or Where Do The Bloggers Go

  21. Cath Lawson on March 19th, 2009 11:32 am

    Hi Barbara – I hate those loop holes too. And they’re always in a print so tiny that Superman couldn’t even read it.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..What Your Customers Really Want

  22. Sara on March 19th, 2009 4:27 pm


    You hit the nail on the head with this post. It is so easy to forget the basics and I agree with you about them. As a consumer, the only thing I might add relates to what makes me stay with a service.

    For me, that is doing the job properly, for the money requested…AND doing it consistently over time. I’ve used many services, which did the basics one or two times then things went downhill from there. To me, keeping customers is also about trusting that the service will be consistent. Great post :~)

    Sara’s last blog post..The power of make-believe

  23. Robin on March 20th, 2009 4:14 am

    Good advice, Cath. In the recording studio field it is a real challenge to come up with a quoting system, because each job is totally unique. But we still have to do it – but we keep tweaking the way we quote.

    Robin’s last blog post..Happy Birthday, Let’s Live Forever!

  24. Stacey / Create a Balance on March 20th, 2009 2:32 pm

    Great advice. First however, I need to find my customers. I’m on an exciting ride with a marketing coach…so watch out world!

    Stacey / Create a Balance’s last blog post..Authentic Happiness Series – Part One

  25. cathlawson on March 20th, 2009 2:41 pm

    Hi Sara – I know what you mean. Too many businesses focus on getting new customers and don’t bother trying to keep their existing customers happy.

    Hi Robin – I can imagine that it is a challenge. But it’s worth it if you can get it right – it makes life a lot easier.

    Hi Stacey – That is brilliant news. If you’re working with a good marketing coach you should soon find your first customers.

  26. Patricia on March 20th, 2009 10:21 pm

    This is so true Cath…I needed to read this today…Thank you

    Patricia’s last blog post..Announcing a Writing Contest – With a Financial Incentive!

  27. Personal injury lawyer on March 21st, 2009 7:34 am

    Thanks for sharing this! What a great reminder… I always feel like I’m the focus of people’s attention, but really it’s just me being self-deprecating– the only focus I have is my own!

  28. JustinSMV on March 21st, 2009 9:38 pm

    Even though this is all common sense tips here it is the one that is highly missed in the sales world and great reminder post you hit dead on!

    JustinSMV’s last blog post..Twitter Spring Clean Up

  29. Kathy@orange county wrongful death attorney on June 18th, 2009 12:33 am

    I think a common misconception is that the customer is always right. Often they are not. You need to be able to say no to some customers. No matter what you do, how honest you are, and how good a job you do, they will never ever be happy. That is how they are. A valuable lesson I learned is that you have to fire your customers from time to time. Long term customers are often not worth it. When take into consideration the amount of time and effort you put into keep them happy, you end up taking a loss. When it comes to getting paid, collect immediately. The longer you wait the less valuable your service becomes to the customer. When you soled their problem you are worth twice as much as you are charging 30 days later about half of what you charged, 60 days later not worth much at all.

  30. Should You Talk Dirty To Your Customers? | Catherine Lawson on September 20th, 2009 9:27 am

    [...] You Give A Toss If You Offend People? What Your Customers Really Want Sleazy Sales & Why Your Neighbours Make You Poor Dead Hamsters & Other Customer Service [...]

  31. Ian Walker on March 8th, 2010 12:40 pm

    “Many people are looking for what your business is offering right now. And all they want are two things. You just need to convince them that you can give them those things.” Yes exactly this is ehat happening right now in the field :)

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