Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The top 5 customer answers and what they really mean

There is no doubt that Michael Arrington is a powerful and infamous man in the US – he rose to prominence writing the TechCrunch blog.  I don’t know him.   But I read this quote from him recently.

Customer research produces bland products.  We are producing a piece of art.

Why would he say this when there is reams of evidence to say that if you don’t understand your customers intimately, you are making huge and most likely, incorrect assumptions about what your customers want from your brand experience.

But there is an art to customer research and analysing what your customers are saying is key.  Those that have little practice in this area don’t always get the nuance between what people say and what people mean.

To help you get started, here are the most common customer statements we have heard during our time and explanations as to what they really mean.

Statement 1: I really like brand X but only for special occasions.

  1. What this means:

For some reason it is not hitting the mark as a regular purchase and when things are only for special occasion, they have a higher risk of being replaced.  Customers buy habitually and habits are formed by regularity.   It is important to understand if they really mean that they just don’t buy Brand X.

  1. What to probe on:

Do you see the contradiction up front?  Really like and only for special occasions?  Interesting statement to probe on.    ‘I am curious to understand how you can really like a brand but only use it infrequently. Tell me more about that.’


Statement 2: Brand Y is too expensive

  1. What this means:

This is the classic value proposition issue.  Money (within a customer’s own budget) is not a real problem if there is value perceived in the purchase.  This answer says your customers don’t see the value in Brand Y.

  1. What to probe on:

You need to understand what value Brand Y brings, so start with: ‘Ok, tell me what you like about Brand Y?’  Pull this apart it terms of product benefits or platform features.  Then ask if they can get those features anywhere else.  Finally probe on price. Even though this should not be a pricing decision making process, asking how much people will pay will give you a good idea about what they do value you for.


Statement 3 (and one of our favourites):  I like this Brand idea but it would be better for my sister/ mother/ brother/ friend/ people with kids..  basically, anyone but me.

  1. What this means:

The people you are talking to are not your target audience.  You do not solve any problems for them or add any value to their lives.

  1. What to probe on:

Probe into the problem you thought you were solving.. is it an actual problem first and if it is, get the people to build a solution they would use, buy, rent etc.


Statement 4:  Gee… Product D would be amazing for camping, fishing, swimming,

  1. What that really means:

‘I am not sure I see the point of Product D in my everyday life. I am not sure what I would buy it for.’ You can interpret ‘good for camping’ similarly to the first point in our list about ‘only being good for special occasions’.

  1. What you should ask next:

You need to probe on what they think Product D does for them. What role does it play in their lives.   ‘Who do you think the creators of this product designed this for and why is it not suitable for everyday use?’


Statement 5: It’s interesting but does it have Z feature?

  1. What that really means:

Customer’s kind of like it but it is not quite hitting the mark.  They want more.  You need to find out what else they are looking for.

  1. What you should ask next:

So, if you were the CEO of this business, what would you do?  What would you include and why?


To make sure you are gathering the right feedback and working out what that means, you need to do three things:

  1. Start with a great Conversation Flow that allows you to build rapport and context in a short period of time. Click here to download the Hearsay Template to get you going.
  2. Secondly, you must learn how to dig deeper into what customers are saying to you to find the real insight. Always probe on ‘fat’ words, things that sound full of emotion.
  3. Finally, learn to interpret those findings. Start with jotting down your WOW Moments after every conversation as these will always form the beginning of your key themes.  Watch more here.

Being able to talk to your customers is a gift but one you need to do regularly to prevent assumptions.  Make time for it.  Here is how.


National Excellence in School Leadership Institute unpacking insights on Hearsay

“I love the platform, I think it’s amazing. It was intuitive to set up.  I ran through an introduction session with Megan and then just dived in.  I was really impressed with the way that the system integrates everything. There is the video component, you’ve got the discussion guide there that you can refer to ...

Is customer intimacy a better competitive edge than measuring brand intimacy?

MBLM released the findings of their study, ‘Brand Intimacy COVID Study 2021’ that evaluated the emotional connections between customers and brands during the pandemic. For the second year in a row, Apple has ranked first as the most intimate brand during COVID-19, topping Disney, Amazon and Netflix. The study is essentially anchored in the idea ...