5 Ways to collect game-changing customer insights

Customer insight collection and analysis is how you make better business decisions—whether that’s in marketing, customer service, or product. Understanding customers and their needs is a gateway to building a customer-centric organization that effectively retains existing customers and attracts new ones.

What are customer insights?

Customer insights are pieces of quantitative and qualitative data that provide a deeper understanding of your customers and what makes them tick. Customer insights are essential for business growth and success, as they enable businesses to make user-informed decisions across everything from product development to marketing activities, sales, and customer support.

When you understand what attracted customers to your product and what made them stick around, your business can replicate these tactics and formulas for proven success.

Customer insights vs. consumer insights vs. user insights

Customer insights are often conflated with consumer insights and user insights—but there’s some slight differences.

  • Customer insights typically refers to the data you collect and analyze from individual, existing customers who fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
  • User insights is a broad term for feedback and insights collected through user research—this might be from existing, new, or potential users
  • Consumer insights implies insights from an entire market (e.g. retail or construction), normally collected during market research or competitive product analysis

Difference between customer insights and market research

Customer insights can also sound similar to market research. To clear up any doubts, we called in Haley Stracher, CEO & Design Director at Iris Design Collaborative, for clarification. Haley said, “Customer insights and market research work hand-in-hand, but they’re very different from one another. Customer insights is all about getting into the minds of your customers. Market research helps understand the market as a whole for business strategy and launch”.

In summary, customer insights focus on understanding your customers’ motivations and pain points, while market research aims to understand the wider market—and competitors—as a whole, so you can hone in on a target market.

Why are customer insights important?

There’s no limit to how you use customer insights in your organization, including:

  • Improve customer retention: Communicating with your customers helps identify what’s working for them and what isn’t, enabling you to:
    • Boost customer lifetime value by addressing issues proactively for current and future users
    • Predict customer churn by understanding client issues in the lead up to them churning
  • Boost acquisition: Current customers can provide great insights into what made them convert in the first place, meaning you can:
    • Optimize marketing efforts to focus on the strategies that attracted existing high-value customers
    • Improve sales efforts by understanding where different user personas find value in your product
  • Identify business opportunities: Improve your product with feedback from the customers that use it, helping you:
    • Improve existing offerings and push sales through, especially for high-value customers
    • Develop new product offerings that support evolving customer needs
  • Build stronger relationships and customer loyalty: Talking directly to customers builds a stronger connection and bond between your organization and them, so you can:
    • Identify and connect with power users to build stronger customer relationships
    • Provide personalized experiences for both existing and new customers
    • Build out customer advocacy and feedback councils

We’ve discussed the what and the why—now it’s time for the how. Here are some of the ways you can get actionable insights from your customers.

How to gather customer insights for product development

For most organizations, conducting remote customer insight collection is the most feasible option to hear from customers.

With customers all over the globe, it can be difficult to run in-person customer research studies that accurately reflect a mix of your customer base. Remote user research—provided you have the right research tool in place—makes it easy and efficient to collect customer insights from a distributed user base (not to mention, it’s a lot less costly, too).

Who should you collect customer insights from?

While you can collect insights from all customers, it’s logical to prioritize gathering feedback from users who make up your ICP, to ensure the data you’re working with reflects your ideal customer type.

Focusing on insights gathered from your ICP means you can trust that these align with your most valuable customers’ feelings, experience, and priorities. In turn, any product decisions informed by customer data will best serve your most valuable existing customers, and attract your target audience.

Here’s our top five user research methods to collect customer insights:

1. Remote usability testing

Remote usability testing is a great way to get insights into how customers use your product. Usability testing involves presenting users with what you’re looking to test—maybe it’s an updated version of your website or a new feature prototype—and giving them a list of tasks to complete.

Usability testing gives insights into how easily customers can use your product—looking at things like navigability, accessibility, information architecture, and more. If customers can quickly and easily complete tasks, you’re on the right track. If they struggle, the insights you collect can be analyzed to help improve your product.

Haley, a strong advocate for running remote usability tests, suggests taking your research to the next level by asking demographic questions before conducting your usability tests:

“In my experience, all of the best remote usability testing happens when you ask preliminary questions to users, like their level of education, technical proficiency, and more. This really helps dig deeper into why certain demographics are using the platform in particular ways, and the data becomes very analytical."

Analyzing the data points and their correlation is by far the most powerful part of remote usability testing.

Haley Stracher, CEO & Design Director at Iris Design Collaborative

"So in other words, it’s less about 'this is the right way' and 'this is the wrong way', and more like 'Why is everyone aged 20-30 clicking the bottom right button while the others are going to the top navigation?'"

In short? It’s about finding out why. Getting demographic customer data helps you focus on insights from your ICP to continually meet their needs.

2. Customer feedback surveys

Next up are customer feedback surveys. Customer feedback surveys involve asking customers about their experience with your product to identify what’s working and what isn’t.

These user surveys are a great way to assess customer sentiment or review product ideas. They come in many shapes and sizes and can be distributed to customers via various channels, e.g. email or in-product widgets.

Some of the types of surveys you can send out to get feedback from customers are:

  • Idea validation surveys: Unsure whether you’re onto a winner with your new idea? Ask customers and guage which ideas your user base would be into.
  • Concept testing survey: Check in with customers throughout the product development process to gain feedback on early product concepts to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys: Need to find out about the customer experience with your product? A customer satisfaction survey like CSATs (Customer Satisfaction Score) or NPSs (Net Promoter Score) helps you get an idea of your customer's attitude towards your product and brand.

One thing that all these surveys have in common is that they’re optional. Consider offering an incentive for survey completion—a gift voucher or an exclusive look at new features. Whatever you can offer, an incentive will undoubtedly get you more feedback.

💡 Pro tip
Use a survey tool that enables you to ask follow-up questions as easily as possible. A limitation of user surveys is that you can’t gather additional context in-the-moment (though you can always send a follow-up). With Maze’s Dynamic Follow-Up, you can let AI dig deeper and uncover additional insights with contextual follow-up questions.

3. Customer interviews

Customer user interviews are another great way to collect real-time customer feedback on everything from new messaging to a UI redesign. They consist of chatting—typically one-on-one—with users to better understand their wants, needs, motivations, pain points, and more.

That being said, conducting customer interviews only gets you feedback. It’s your customer interview analysis that gets you actionable insights.

Once you’ve conducted customer interviews, analyze them for key feedback and themes. You need to look through the data you’ve generated from customer interviews, identify and compare insights from different interviews, and summarize your findings into a research report.

It might sound like a time-consuming process—but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of tools out there to help speed up the analysis and get insights faster.

With the help of AI, Maze’s interview studies feature supports your interview process by summarizing interviews and creating notes, extracting key insights and learnings, and automating report generation using natural language processing (NLP). If you’re a small team, stuck for time, or worried about cognitive biases creeping into your analysis—opting for an AI-enabled analysis tool is a great solution.

4. Product analytics data

Gathering insights from product analytics involves looking at how your customers engage with your product to get customer behavior and engagement data. This customer insights collection method is slightly more passive than the others on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s less effective.

Product analytics get you a ton of product research insights that can be used across the business to inform key decisions, such as:

  • Optimizing acquisition insights by finding out where customers come from
  • Increasing activation by identifying the customer journeys that lead to conversion
  • Personalizing the product experience by identifying segment preferences within your customers
  • Identifying friction points by seeing where users drop off

Monitoring your product engagement and behavioral data helps you identify and solve product problems proactively. If you notice issues in product feedback and engagement data, you can begin working to resolve them—likely by connecting with customers to gather more insights.

Product analytics is an excellent way to pre-empt any problems, and continually monitor customer insights and usability metrics.

5. Customer service and success feedback

Your customer service and success agents spend most of their time talking with customers. They discuss the good, the bad, and the mundane. This means they’re the ideal funnel for your customer insights mission.

Customer service and success conversations and communications are a gold mine for customer feedback. Nobody in your organization stays in such close contact with such a large number of customers.

There are a variety of ways you can go about uncovering insights from these conversations:

  • Schedule regular check-ins with the customer support team: Connecting for a check-in about what’s on customer minds helps get customer feedback and guide your user research.
  • Use an insight-focused CRM: Using the right tools can help extract customer insights from support conversations quickly and easily.
  • Monitor social media: Whether this is your customer support team surfacing queries, or your marketing team keeping track of customer highlights and lowlights. Check in regularly for real-time feedback from users.
  • Begin a support Slack channel: Create a company-wide Slack channel that can be accessed to view soundbites and snippets of customer feedback, whether that’s a recurring feature request or a compliment about new designs.
  • Start a focus group or customer advocacy initiative: Work with customers directly in focus groups led by your product and customer success teams to gather feedback. This could be a synchronous meet-up or virtual roundtable.
  • Employ an AI-assisted chatbot: These chatbots not only help provide support quicker, but they also typically have built-in reporting functionality, making them a great option for passively gathering customer insights.

Customer insights come from all over an organization. Whether it’s the support team flagging frequent bugs, your marketing team highlighting feedback on LinkedIn, or the UX research team identifying friction points. Make the most of these pre-existing customer connections, and start considering how you track all this data.

Applying customer insights to user experience

Even though customer insights play a key part in business success—collecting, analyzing, and using them to inform decision-making is where most businesses fall short.

Our Continuous Research Trends report showed that a vast majority of product teams wish they had access to more regular feedback and user insights—speaking to your customers is the number one way to do this, but don’t make it a one-off.

“You should be collecting customer insights always and often,” says Haley from Iris Design Collaborative. And it doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive, laborious (or expensive) task. Tap into your existing feedback initiatives, and consider what new channels and research methods can help you create new customer touchpoints and collect insights on a regular basis.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. Plant the seeds for your customer insight collection and analysis process now and begin your journey to attracting your ICP.

Collect and analyze customer insights at scale

Start uncovering decision-driving insights from your customers with Maze’s intuitive user research solutions.

Frequently asked questions about customer insights

What are consumer insights?

Consumer insights are data points on your users that give an understanding of their relationship and experience with your product.

What is the difference between customer insights and market research?

Customer insights are specific to your customers, whereas market research is a general look at the market as a whole.

What is the difference between customer insights and customer feedback?

Customer feedback is any constructive communication with your customers. Customer insights are the data points you extract from customer feedback to make more-informed product decisions.