What customers can’t tell you…

29 09 2010

Chris van der Hoven wrote:

You could run focus groups and conduct surveys and get useful insights into what your customers need. But, what about the things customers can’t tell you?

This is a minefield when customer acquisition and retention are under the spotlight. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford, who is reputed to have said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse!” The famous car maker was spot on. Understanding customer needs might be about understanding your customer’s customer or being aware of the job they are trying to perform with your service or product. What about products and services they don’t yet realize they need? How skilled are you at surfacing the needs that are not obvious – the ‘hidden needs’?

My colleagues have taken a good hard look at approaches to identify ‘hidden needs’ and set these out in their new book. We are already running in-company workshops using these ideas, so can support you if you are facing these challenges. If you decide to get a copy, let us know what you think once you’ve had a go at some of the techniques. Keith’s contact details are on the ‘Who we are’ page.

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One response

11 10 2010
Mark Fisher

One aspect of this is the skill in separating what a customer “says” they want (their view of the solution) versus their actual requirement. As a solutions provider, moving beyond the customer view of “what they say they need” is key to the identification and delivery of real value added solutions, and more importantly the basis of a lasting and fruitful customer/supplier relationship.

Another aspect is getting quality time with your customers and be inquisitive about their actions or processes. “Why are you doing that?”, “Do you always, do A, then B and C before closing the deal?”, “What happens to this process when Bob’s away?”…. This is where you’re able to actually get closer to the heart of their business and actually help identify opportunity and seed the requirements … “Would it make your job easier and more efficient if you didn’t have to enter that data 4 times?”, “What if Bob’s expertise was captured in a small application that anyone could use?”…

All this requires that you understand your customers business and that you can be enquiring about all aspects of what you see; think about it as your own. Then you can apply some out-of-the-box thinking in areas that’s probably that not common place in their business sector. The results are often very mutually beneficial, and generally quite simple.

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