Better Understanding Customers - Spring2 Innovation

Better Understanding Customers

December 19, 2011

Find out what the customer wants and then give them what they are really looking for.  Taking a look back to over 5 years ago, in telco the issue was how to bring in VOIP. The cable companies were all over it and so telcos wanted a similar offering. What was the underlying issue they were looking to solve? What was the customer looking for? Is the customer willing to give up anything to get VOIP? Does the customer want VoIP or do they want to have more features at less of a cost? The later was the answer.

The data doesn’t tell you what the customers will buy either. Many companies make the mistake of using data purchased from companies solely to guide multiyear multimillion dollar investment projects that don’t get more than a handful of customers. You still need to have insights into where the market is going and what your customer really wants. It isn’t a cooler or newer technology that gives them exactly what they have now. Save your investment dollars. Unless it adds value or reduces their costs (or yours) then it may be worth leaving it on the sidelines. Then the question becomes how much value does it add and will your customers end up agreeing with you.  One way to find this out is to go out and talk to your customers. Find out what is on their mind and what their pain points are right now. This is especially important for  business to business solutions.

I really enjoyed the book “Change Anything”  by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler. They discuss that in order for people to change they need to be increase the perceived pain in their heads and increase the perceived benefits in order for people to want to change. How much does your new service or product decrease your customer’s perceived pain or increase their perceived pleasure?

Another aspect is are you looking at the products and services your customers will want in the future or are you looking at creating for what they’re looking for today? Think about where your industry is going and where you will need to be in 3 to 5 years out. Then develop for that time, not today. Having great insights into the industry and using it to plan out products/ services is a large part of how companies become successful at innovation.