Keeping Customers Happy: Understanding Information Needs

One of the many perspectives that need to be balanced when conducting business analysis is that of the customer. Quite rightly, tools like personas and journey maps form a part of the BA toolkit and these (and other) tools can be deployed to gain a representative understanding of what customers or other stakeholders want. As well as understanding what they want, another angle that is worth consideration is their pain points or frustrations. Gaining an understanding of what isn’t working now can be incredibly helpful when figuring out how a particular journey should change.

Within their current frustrations, one area to probe is their information needs. Quite often an otherwise perfect service might feel frustrating just because a customer doesn’t know what is happening, or when it will happen. Imagine you ordered a product online and no indication was given over when it would be delivered. You’d probably form an expectation based on your experience with other online retailers and might expect delivery in 2 or 3 days. If the product hadn’t arrived after 6 or 7 days, you’d probably chase. This creates frustration and works for you, and it creates additional work for the company (as they have to deal with unhappy customers chasing their products). If, however, a clear expectation of the delivery was set at the outset before you purchased the product you’d have been able to make an informed choice. Perhaps the company might add a line to its website “Our products are bespoke, and made to order. This means they take 7-10 days to be delivered, we’ll provide you with an estimated delivery date when you order”.


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This probably sounds like a trivial example, but it illustrates a wider pattern. Sometimes a journey can be improved by the selective and timely provision of information. This provides confidence to the customer (“ah, I know when it’ll be delivered”) but also cuts down on queries and chasers. These are the types of incremental change that can increase satisfaction while simultaneously reducing rework and the associated costs. Some examples are shown below:
Pattern Example
Confirming Texting confirmation of an appointment, so a customer doesn’t feel they have to ring and confirm
Committing Emailing confirmation of a key commitment which had been verbally made over the phone
Preempting Predicting common queries and providing information at an appropriate time (e.g. a hotel might email the check-in / check out times and details about parking 24 hours before a customer is due to arrive)
Providing Visibility Letting someone calling with a query know their place in the queue
Allowing Scrutiny Let the customers view all of the information you store about them so they have confidence that everything is correct.

There are many other possibilities, of course, and the ones that are relevant for you will depend a lot on the environment and context that you’re working in.

How To Find Information Needs

The question becomes “how do we find out what information our customers value?”. Ironically, providing too much information at inappropriate times can create problems too (I’m sure we’ve all been victims of ‘information overload’!). There is no easy answer to this question, but one key thing to do is to ask them.

 Of course, if you have thousands of customers, it won’t be possible to ask everyone. Yet surveys, workshops, and focus groups are ways of getting insight into what customers really want.  It may be that an internal team such as marketing has already commissioned detailed customer research and we can piggyback from that.  There may be a goldmine of information in other places too, such as:

  • Complaints logs: Some complaints may be due to a mismatch of expectations, which might indicate an information need
  • Operational logs & statistics: If there are high volumes of a particular type of query, this may indicate an issue. However, statistics should always be treated with caution until their validity and accuracy are known.
  • Front-line staff: People who actually speak to customers often have a very good idea of common queries and gripes. If there’s absolutely no practical way of speaking to customers, speaking and observing front-line staff can provide a useful proxy.

Once potential improvements have been identified, they can then be sketched out/prototyped and feedback can be sought.  Nothing beats actual feedback from those that are affected, and this might refine other areas for improvement too!

How do you handle customer information needs? I’d love to hear your views.  Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s keep the conversation going!


Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed is a true advocate of the analysis profession. In his day job, he acts as Principal Consultant and Director at Blackmetric Business Solutions where he provides business analysis consultancy and training solutions to a range of clients in varying industries. He is a Past President of the UK chapter of the IIBA® and he speaks internationally on topics relating to business analysis and business change. Adrian wrote the 2016 book ‘Be a Great Problem Solver… Now’ and the 2018 book ‘Business Analyst’ You can read Adrian’s blog at http://www.adrianreed.co.uk and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/UKAdrianReed