The 4W1H method for understanding Customer Needs!

If you’re a start up guy looking to validate an idea or a big guy in an MNC trying to get a better understanding of the user, this article will help you get a possible direction of how to go about it.

With the ever increasing competition, it has become increasingly important to employ methods that help you understand the customer better and exceed his expectations to become a leader in the market.

So, here’s something that I learnt in Quality Engineering that can be applied to know the customer’s needs and experiences as well.

So, what exactly is this 4W1H method.

4W1H stands for,

Where: This describes the physical place where the particular experience being shared by interviewee happened.

For Example: If the customer complains that the app is taking huge amount of time to boot/load. You can collect all such data and map the locations, chances are that it might be happening in a particular location, relating it to a localised low speed of internet?

When: This gives us information about the time of the experience. 10AM today or sunday and so on.

For Example: when did it happen, or when does it usually happen.

What: This question gives us an indication about the environment or what the user was doing when he encountered this experience.

Example: the classic case of General Motors and Vanilla Ice cream. Google it to check out what happened, you’d be in for a laugh.

Who: Who gives us information about the user, his name and other details to identify him.

How: Describes the way the user is handling or interacting with the app/device/machine

for example: A routine issue in automobiles is gear rod vibration. Now if you go a step deep into this issue and ask the customer, when does this particular problem occur, chances are very high of them saying that it occurs during the idling speed or when they’re driving it in first gear. This type of interviewing helps you to pinpoint the said issue into a specific actionable point( Vibration reduction in idling and first gears).

Asking the user about their experience and getting enough information for the above questions, will give a clear understanding of what the user is experiencing and how to improve upon it.

It is also important to note that this method works best when you have a broad idea in place for solving a particular problem the user is facing. That way you can direct the conversation that will be meaningful and useful to both of you.

The tool will be particularly effective in Focus Groups and Interview methods of Market Research.

On a concluding note, please refrain from asking this questions directly. You should direct the conversation such that you get answers for all the above questions, at the same time keeping the natural flow of conversation.

Bonus: Combine the above information with Empathy maps.

Thanks for the read!