Struggling to channel your inner Carnac? (Apologies to those of you who are too young to appreciate the reference.)

You’re not alone.  In most industries, including staffing, today’s customers are becoming more difficult to read.  They’re far less loyal and trusting than they used to be.  Their needs are more diverse.  And while you might think that Big Data holds the key to discerning their needs and decision-making patterns, the sheer volume of data can actually make it harder to understand them.

So how are you supposed to know what they really want?

While I can’t give you any pointers on mind-reading, I can offer these practical ways to get inside your staffing customers’ heads:

  • Take a walk in their shoes.  Broaden your perspective by considering the customer experience beyond your business.  Consider a prospect’s full range of choices (including DIY, working with a competitor, or even doing nothing) when it comes to managing his workforce.  Take customers and/or prospects out to lunch, for the simple purpose of learning about staffing from their vantage point.  Think like your customers, and you’ll better understand the how’s and why’s of their decision-making processes.
  • Immerse yourself in the customer experience.  How well do you really understand what it’s like to work with your staffing service – at every step of the process?  Track the customer experience through your firm’s service pathways, taking notes on where processes break down.  How you choose to do this is up to you.  You can role play, listen in on client calls, ride with sales reps, personally monitor the candidate registration process, or even consider hiring a secret shopper to place a mock staffing order.  Examine your service experience through the customer’s eyes, and then align it with their decision-making processes.
  • Diversify your customer teams.  Want to better understand where your customers are coming from?  Leverage the collective experience and varying perspectives of everyone in your company.  Bring representatives from all functions together – even those who don’t deal directly with customers – to critically examine your service process.  Compare notes and share anecdotes to develop a deeper understanding of how to serve customers better.
  • Involve your customers. Host a roundtable discussion on leadership and innovation.  Invite a keynote speaker, as well as your best clients and key prospects.  Discuss the directions in which they’re leading their businesses, the role workforce strategy plays, and the ways a staffing partner can help them achieve their objectives.
  • Try scenario planning.  Business visionaries like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson mastered the art of knowing what customers want – well before customers knew it themselves.  To understand what your customers will want tomorrow, imagine what that tomorrow might look like.  Assemble your customer team to analyze the impact that industry trends, economic conditions, candidate availability and other key variables might have on your clients.  Then, determine what your clients might need from you in each of these different scenarios.

Each of these suggestions takes a slightly different approach to understanding your clients – but all will help you know what they want (maybe even before they do!).  This insight is the first step in delivering a shareworthy service experience, every time.

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