Customer Service - Unpacking Customer Needs

Ever thought you knew what you wanted but after some research realised that you needed something very different? If only a professional that has already done the research could unpack your needs for you.

When you go to the doctors, you tell them what’s wrong and then they use this information to dig deeper and get a better understanding of the situation before they prescribe any medication. Actually, the health professions are quite good at unpacking problems, they learn how to do this as part of their study to become a health practitioner.

In any industry, being able to unpack the needs of a client is a valuable skill, a skill that has personally served me well in general business, Project Management, IT Support, Teaching and my current role as an Academic Manager.

Some of the techniques that have helped me better understand client needs are:

  • active listening – Fully concentrate on what is being said... Listen more talk less
  • open ended questioning – What are the desired outcomes of... ?
  • closed ended questioning – Do you want this system to be able to ... ?
  • paraphrasing to confirm understanding - Verbalise a short summary of what you just heard
  • body language – Understanding what is not being spoken

Some examples of where I have used the above techniques are:

  • brain storming sessions 
  • training sessions
  • needs analysis 
  • root cause analysis
  • use case modelling 
  • market research
  • project brief or scope
  • conflict resolution
  • employee interviews and reviews

Generally, in business, you are offering a product and or a service but to deliver a product or a service that is fit for purpose and fit for use, I believe it is essential to be skilled at unpacking the needs of a client.  

How you systematically continue to deliver the product or service is a topic for another blog.

- Stephen