I’ve written a few articles on why you shouldn’t make assumptions about your customers. In response, I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have to assume at least something about your customers?” No, you don’t, but you do have to presume. This article explains the difference between these two types of supposition: assuming and presuming.

Businesses are coached to assume nothing about their customers in order to ensure that they understand the root of their customers’ unique problem. However, this advice can be confusing because, at the same time, businesses don’t want to create work for their customers by asking them too many foundational questions.

The confusion encounter here is due to the difference between assuming and presuming, which are two types of supposition. What’s the difference? Grammarly.com offers a helpful comparison of the two words:

  • To presume is to suppose based on probability; and
  • To assume is to suppose without any evidence

When you make a presumption about a customer, you base your supposition on research about the customer, their problems, their industry, etc. These are facts that you’ve gathered that allow you to make an educated guess that has a higher probability of being true.

When you make an assumption about a customer, you are likely basing your supposition on a smaller or less valid set of data. For example, your guesses may be based on a few of your previous customers who seem similar. Your suppositions are therefore less likely to be accurate in this case because the evidence is weaker.

When beginning a customer discovery conversation, you will need to make some presumptions about their situation, but make sure to pause and ask if your presumptions are accurate. While the probability may be high, you’re still going to make some false presumptions. It’s best to give the customer an opportunity to correct them.

Knowing the difference between presumptions and assumptions can help you to signal to your customer that you understand their situation but that you also see them as having a unique experience and needs. Presume, but don’t assume.

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