Learn from Customers

Learn how to understand your customers better – their behaviors, needs, and wants – and generate the insights you need to start designing.

Why and how do you collect customer information?

A solid understanding of customers’ lives, motivations, and aspirations is the first step to improving customer experience – and increasing value for customers and your organization. It’s the entry point for designing more effective products and services. Research often reveals exactly what influences personal finance decisions.

Although everyone in a customer-centric organization is responsible for thinking about customer needs and experiences, it’s the research team that should regularly draw insights from customer information. Insights can come from existing interactions between customers and tellers or agents, or from explicit research.

Get Going with a Research Plan

To truly understand customer behavior, an approach that combines qualitative and quantitative research is most effective. An efficient research plan first taps into existing internal knowledge, then dives into the unknown. And if you already have data, focusing on knowledge gaps can generate more relevant findings.

  • Begin by looking at internal transaction data and Voice of the Customer feedback.
  • Start small – even a quick conversation is a good place to begin.
  • Go to a busy market and conduct 15-minute interviews.
  • Deepen some conversations into one-on-one interviews.

Key Resources

Ghanaian woman participates in a qualitative interview in her home by a team gathering customer insights from low-income customers.

What’s the best way to approach research with low-income customers?

In low-income settings, it’s especially important to conduct research sensitively.
Here are a few tips:

  • Meet people where they live.
  • Wear casual, appropriate attire.
  • Be mindful of religious, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic norms. 
  • Ensure that a member of your team speaks the local language.
  • Consider incentives – participants may have to forego income to spend time with you.
  • Be aware of privacy and security risks around your conversations.
  • Approach people with humility, genuine curiosity, respect, and care. They’re helping you build a more impactful customer experience.

Key Resources

Low-income women in Indonesia look at and discuss their microcredit group loan documents

Which type of research best fits your organization?

Quantitative Research 

  • Choose when: Demonstrating market opportunity; gaining a broad understanding of a population.
  • Use when: You need a precise estimate of market opportunity; you already have a strong understanding of customer needs and characteristics.
  • Sample size: Usually large.
  • Conducted by: A data scientist who specializes in using research to understand behaviors and demographics.
  • Benefit: Research insights can be narrowly applied to product features, attributes, and pricing.

Qualitative Research 

  • Choose when: Gaining customer insights; understanding aspirations, frustrations, and preferences.
  • Use when: Conducting exploratory research on customer needs; if you don’t have enough secondary research to form a hypothesis; when behavior change is so noticeable you can inquire only in person.
  • Sample size: Usually small.
  • Conducted by: Ethnographers, qualitative research specialists, designers.
  • Benefit: Provides deep insight into less obvious unmet needs and expectations.

Combination of Quantitative + Qualitative Research

  • Choose when: Gaining a clear picture of a target market and the business opportunity within customers’ lives.
  • Use when: Targeting a segment with less established or rapidly changing needs, such as low-income customers.
  • Sample size: Large for quantitative; small for qualitative.
  • Conducted by: Data scientists, ethnographers, qualitative research specialists, designers (or an outside research firm that specializes in both).
  • Benefit: Insights are deeper when you have time/resources for both types of research.
Low-income woman in Kenya smiles and holds baby during a qualitative interview in her home.