What do customers really want? The top five most important things revealed


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A few weeks ago, I decided to conduct some independent research. I have always been intrigued to know exactly what is most important to us as consumers, and up until now have used my professional experience, personal experiences and gut feel to assess what I thought to be the most important things. Thanks to friends, contacts and acquaintances, I am delighted to be able to put a little more ‘flesh on the bones’ to determine what is important – based on fact!

Before I reveal the results, let me give you a little background. In September 2013, I distributed a short survey to people within my networks on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The survey contained five simple questions as follows:

  1. What are the three most important things to you as a customer (consumer) of an organisation?
  2. What irritates you most as a customer (based on recent experiences)?
  3. Which organisations do you, or have you transacted with who deliver excellent customer experiences (in your opinion)?
  4. Do you ever recommend organisations you have transacted with to friends, family or acquaintances?
  5. Have you ever used social media (Twitter or Facebook) to interact with an organisation (when requiring customer service or help)?

In the first of a series of blog posts investigating the results, I am today exploring question number 1 – ‘what are the three most important things to you as a customer of an organisation?’. The results represent a sample of 240 people – a group of anonymous consumers to whom I shall always be very grateful. Future blog posts will look at the results of other questions from the survey.

So let’s cut to the chase!! What are the most important things to us as consumers? Although I asked respondents to list their top three things, I am actually a fan of focussing on the ‘top 5?. As such, I am excited to reveal the top five things that are important to customers (the clever reader may already have guessed from the headline image!):

0 what customers want

Surprised? If you are surprised, I am hoping that these results may be of significance to you in some way. Whether it be to help you influence or change mind sets, or just set things straight in your own mind, having an independent source of research can be helpful. If you are not surprised, I hope you can use these results to validate what you have always thought, or add weight to what you have always said.

Analysing the results was challenging. The questions were intentionally open – leading to a wide array of responses which required interpretation. I am sure that research experts will be able to pick holes in my method – yet I am confident that the results are a very accurate reflection of the thoughts of the respondents who themselves are a representative sample of consumers. I therefore would like to walk you through the top five and provide a little more explanation.

0 vfm

First place and winner of the gold medal goes to what can be best described as the ‘financial’ aspect of a customers relationship with an organisation. 48% of survey respondents cited value for money, cost, price or competitiveness as one of their three most important things. I have intentionally grouped these elements together – yet it is important to understand that they are all actually different.

Many see ‘value for money’ as being something more significant than just cost or price. Consumers want to feel that the whole experience has been of value. Whether price is high or low is not as relevant as the consumer perception of value. For example, a two bedroom terrace house in London will be significantly more expensive than the same type of house in Rochdale. Despite the disparity in price or cost, they are both perceived to be value for money in their relative markets.

This does not mean price is not important. Research conducted by BT showed that 85% of consumers always shop around to get the best prices – my independent research appears to validate this. We are living in a society where disposable incomes are dropping, and price is a significant factor in purchase decision-making. The important takeaway from the findings of this research is to ensure that you consider pricing and competitiveness from a value perspective.

0 cust serv

The silver medal goes to customer service. There is still confusion around the difference between customer service and customer experience. This recent blog post helps to clarify the situation – http://ijgolding.com/2013/10/23/customer-service-or-customer-experience-what-exactly-does-customer-experience-mean/.

Customer service is vital to us as customers – from pre sale, to post sale. 47% of survey respondents stated that customer service was one of their three most important things. The ability of organisations to help consumers at every stage of the journey is critical here, including the ability and willingness to sort out issues as they arise.

0 promises

The bronze medal goes to something that I have increasingly seen become important over the last five years. As Group head of Customer Experience at Shop Direct Group, I consistently saw the inability to keep customer promises as a key driver of customer dissatisfaction. The research backs this up – 32% of respondents stated reliability (or keeping promises) as one of their top three things. We want and need to be able to trust organisations to do the things they say they will. Where promises are broken, it will have a fundamental effect on our relationships with companies.

This leads to an important question – do organisations know how reliable they are? Do they know how often they do break a promise, or not do what they say they will? Understanding your own internal capability and aligning it to customer perception can seriously aid your understanding of the elements of your customer journey that need to be improved.

0 quality and ease

Just missing out on the medals are ‘quality’ and ‘ease of doing business’. 29% of respondents cited product and/or service quality as one of their three most important things. Essentially, we need the things we are buying to be of the quality we expect. The link to price and value is vital . We still expect quality, even in a world where we expect competitive prices.

23% of respondents said that the ease of doing business with an organisation is one of their three most important things. This is of no surprise to me, as it would make my personal top three. We want websites to be easy to navigate; products to be easy to access; for it to be easy to contact an organisation. In our increasingly automated and mobile enabled world, we crave simplicity – organisations who make it difficult to interact, will ultimately lose out – as this research suggests. If I repeat this research in a years time, I would not be surprised if ‘ease’ were to move up the rankings.

So there you have it. The top five most important things to us as consumers. If you want to know what other ‘things’ missed out on the top five, drop me a line and I will fill you in! Now you know the top five, how does your own organisation measure up? Are you good value for money? Do you deliver ‘great’ customer service? Are you reliable? Are you easy to do business with? Maybe you could conduct a self assessment and let me know! Whatever you choose to do, it would be great if you would consider sharing your thoughts on the research results.

Finally, another huge thank you to all those who contributed to the research. Your time is greatly appreciated in enabling me to produce such a valuable insight into what we want as customers. The next blog post on question 2 – what irritates us most – will follow soon.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.


  1. set of results. The perceived value, service, and trust/reliability components of customer experience invariably come up highest in importance (a surrogate for expectation). The TQ elements of experience tend to be ‘table stakes’; and it’s interesting, especially among those who responded, that ease of doing business was so unimportant. Very often, this element of delivery comes up with some frequency among B2B customers, especially in qualitative research, leading B2B companies to include this diagnostic in their tracking surveys and ascribing more emphasis to the results than the ‘ease’ element deserves. In other words, ‘ease of doing business’ becomes something of a red herring, vacuuming up scarce resources (time, money, people, facilities, technology).

    Companies need to have a good sense of the prioritized, and impactful, elements of customer experience. This involves a strategic plan to integrate customer-centric research, culture, processes, and employees: http://www.customerthink.com/blog/if_you_don_t_know_where_you_re_going_with_customers_any_road_will_get_you_there

  2. Thank you Michael for taking the time to read and feedback. I am often asked ‘what is new this year’ from a customer experience perspective – from a customers point of view…..not a lot! What was important, remains so – the ability of organisations to consistently meet and exceed customer expectation is key. What does change is customer behaviour, driven by may factors.

    I completely agree with your post and point about strategic planning!


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