Many organizations release products based on what customers think or how they act. These studies are parts of customer analysis, and they usually are broken down into three main methods. Between focus groups, customer satisfaction measurement and field tests, an organization can gain a better understanding of what customers are seeking. These methods help shape a wide range of commercial products, from television shows to soda flavors.
One of the most common types of customer analysis is the focus group. A focus group is a specially chosen group of consumers, usually representing a specific demographic, who are presented with a product and asked to discuss it. This is a valuable marketing and sociology tool for companies because reactions are able to be measured immediately, and the group's discussions can be taped and reviewed. Organizations frequently use these meetings to gauge the potential success or failure of a product.
One example of an industry that relies heavily on focus groups for customer analysis is the motion picture industry. Frequently, movies are shown to test audiences before the actual release. After watching the film, viewers are asked a series of questions about what they liked and did not like about the picture. Based on these results, a movie company can choose to reedit a film, decide where to release it and even choose how much of a marketing budget to assign the film based on its potential for ticket sales.
Customer satisfaction measurement is another popular form of customer analysis. This method is practiced most often by companies that offer physical products. Like a focus group, it aims to record reactions after a product has been used. Instead of bringing in a target market for testing, however, the users are sought out for their opinions after they purchase the product. This can be done through the mail, but is more commonly done through a phone call or an email survey.
An example of this customer survey technique is calling customers who purchased a product from a company's website. The survey can ask questions about satisfaction and any recommendations that the customer has to improve the product or the company's customer service or even its website. This accomplishes two feats by simultaneously getting customer feedback and improving customer loyalty by showing the buyer how important his or her opinion is to the company.
A third customer analysis technique is field testing. This involves going to places where an ideal audience is and measuring customer reactions to a product. This is a little like focus groups except that the audience is completely random. An example of this is a soda company offering free samples to shoppers at a grocery store and recording their reactions in order to finalize the flavor content.