Is trying to think like a customer harming your business?

16th March 2015

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Every small-business owner is told to get into the mind of their customer and try to understand how they think - but does this actually lead to better business decisions? 

A recent study suggests that actually trying to think like a customer may be harming a company's performance, as this exercise isn't that useful in determining how customers think.

That's the finding of a recently published study from the American Marketing Association, which found that trying to think like a customer ends with people thinking like themselves.

According to the study, even when individuals try to put themselves in someone else's shoes they will still rely on their own values. Drawing on a survey of car salespeople, the research found that when trying to think like a customer, the salespeople actually drew on their own values and experiences.

"Ironically, putting oneself in the customer's shoes makes managers even more likely let their own feelings get in the way," wrote the study's authors.

"Envisioning oneself as a consumer who is making personal choices causes the manager's true personal preferences to kick in."

Instead, the study's authors suggested relying less on thinking like a customer and instead relying on hard data when trying to determine how customers think. The advantage here is that there is much less chance of an individual finding themselves projecting their own values onto their customers' data.

This is where small business accounting software can be useful - providing detailed information on purchasing patterns that can in turn be used to drive greater sales performance across a company.

Regardless of the approach companies take, having concrete information lets you see first-hand what a customer thinks - rather than relying on gut instinct. By using data to make decisions, companies will be well-placed to achieve long-term growth across the board.