Tag Archives: listen to a customer

Business Breakthroughs– Customers Involvement– Listen to Customers Vs. Don’t Listen to Customer: Understand Differences…

Business breakthroughs shape and redefine markets and industries… a breakthrough is moving beyond incrementalism… great brands lead customers, and not the other way around… however, the concept of business breakthroughs often leads to controversial discussion of– What is the customer’s role in the process?

Some experts suggest that breakthroughs evolves from a shift in customer involvement– from asking customers what they want, to a broader understanding of their needs and drivers… pretty much in accordance with the message of targeting customers on the level of needs, rather than on the level of solutions… Breakthroughs address ‘needs’ that customers often cannot articulate and solutions that they cannot even imagine; hence, the customer’s feedback is mostly marginal when defining breakthrough requirements… in effect, breakthroughs require understanding customers, but not necessarily listening to them…

According to Shaun Smith; of course you need to listen to customers to keep business continuously improving and to identify problems with existing customer experience… But, what customers say they want from you is probably exactly the same thing they tell your competitors too– so if you act on that alone, there is likely to be more in common between you and your competitors than there is that sets you apart. Customers want to be surprised and delighted and to surprise and delight them you don’t have to ask, but you do have to understand them…

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According to  Steve Jobs; it sounds logical to ask customers what they want and then give it to them, but they rarely wind up getting what they really want that way… Seeing beyond customers’ requests is something that is easier said than done… According to Tom Peters and others; the customers that are least likely to help you move on to the next innovation are the biggest customers you have… ask them what they want and it’s likely to be the usual thing– better, faster, cheaper… 

They want a better version of what they already have… Innovative businesses are adept at seeing under the surface of what customers really want, and they understand that customers don’t really know what they want until they actually see it. This ability is best expressed by a German word ‘zeitgeist’; which means the emerging spirit of the age or mood of the moment, and it’s probably best translated as market readiness or customer readiness– the ability to see what the market is ready for, before the market knows it itself… According to Henry Ford; if he had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses…

In the article Delight Customers By Giving Them What They Didn’t Ask For by David Sturt writes: When customers ask you for something, your first inclination is to give it to them. Naturally, your goal is to deliver value to those who pay the bills… And, the customer is always right, right? But it depends; when it comes to breakthroughs, customers can be woefully inadequate sources for new solutions. Inventors of market-disrupting ideas know that what people think will attract them to a new product or service may often be very different from what actually does…

According to Mark Cuban; your customers can tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy: Listen to them. Make them happy. But don’t rely on them to create the future road map for your product or service: That’s your job… Does that mean you ignore customer opinions altogether, and trust only intuitive geniuses to design the future? Or, take the opposite approach and try to get your customers to tell you what’s next? The answer is somewhere in between, and that’s where breakthroughs gets messy, and interesting. According to Steve Jobs; it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them…

True breakthrough is really the art of what product developers call empathic design, and empathic design involves careful consumer observation and investigation– rather than traditional market research– to identify latent, inarticulate needs that customers may not even know they have… In other words, you can’t ask customers to do your thinking for you. But you can become so familiar with customer habits, problems, and patterns that you are able to surprise them with a solution they didn’t even know was possible until you give it to them…

Often the problem with customer feedback, is that they simply can’t get out of the gravitational pull of what currently exists– customer-led breakthrough leads to sameness and incrementalism… According to a ‘Harvard Business Review article on empathic design; sometimes customers are so accustomed to current conditions that they don’t think to ask for a new solution; in other words, customers can’t always tell you what they need, you can only find out by seeing for yourself…

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In the article Don’t Listen to Customers by Sherrie Mersdorf writes: I disagree with the statement that you should ‘never’ listen to customers… without listening to customers it’s impossible to sustain a business… but ‘only’ listening to customers is unsustainable, as well: Obviously there is be a middle ground… Hence, in order for a business to excel and prosper they must develop offerings that not only meet existing customers needs, but also meet needs that their customers don’t even know exists…

Business leaders must always be reminded that– it’s not the job of their customers to ‘know what they don’t know’. In other words, most customers have a tough enough time just doing their jobs, and don’t spend any time trying to reinvent markets or industries… Sure, every now and then, you come across a person at a customer site who has exceptional insights and who can be useful to help you define the next generation product or service, but this person is rare and you cannot bet the business on finding that one person…

According to Alan Kay; the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Of course you need to listen to customers, and take their feedback, hear their pain, listen to what’s broken, and also do something beyond their imaginations. If you don’t do something beyond what customers know they want, someone else will. Most customers cannot really imagine the breakthrough ‘value’ or ‘need’ until they see it and experience it… then, you need to listen to them when they tell you what’s broken and what delights them… Yes, listen to them, delight them, but don’t expect them to create the future road map for your business: That’s your job…

In the article Great Brand Don’t Always Listen to Customers by Bruce Temkin writes: Should business eliminate or ignore their customers insights or abandon the voice of customers in their quest for breakthroughs? No, but they do need to understand basic customer issues, and listen for and recognize value factors that are limiting customers’ performance… Let’s examine a few realities of customer feedback:

  • Customers are grounded in today: Customers are not very good at projecting the future and even less effective at explaining what they need when things change…
  • Customers are most articulate about dislikes: When it comes to bad experiences, customers know it when they see it, and they are more likely to share information about it. According to research; 34% of consumers give feedback to a company after a very bad experience, but only 21% did the same after a very good experience…
  • Customers are least articulate about their desires: It’s very hard to understand what customers truly desire, since they often don’t recognize it themselves, or limit their focus to match their preconceived view of your business…
  • Customers aren’t designers: Customers cannot tell you how to design your products or services. You must have strong people in your organization that can architect the important customer experiences…

In the article Don’t Listen to Your Customers by Leonard Koenig writes: Listen to your customers– that’s what they teach in business school, that’s what most business leaders preach… And it makes sense, it’s the single most important thing successful companies do; well maybe, yes and no… To a certain degree, it’s yes, even necessary to listen to customers, but beware, it’s a fairly shortsighted way of operating a business, and it can put you out of business in the long run… First, by listening diligently to customers, you narrow-in on a specific value network and you may forget to think holistic, broad, big picture… Second, and most important you forget to innovate…

The best– and the worst– way of learning about market demand is to ask the customer: Yes, it’s the ‘best’ way because customers can provide valuable feedback… Yes, it’s the ‘worst’ way because customers really don’t really know what they want; they know what their problems are, and what they like and what they don’t like… And typically, customers just ask for ‘more’; more features, more options, more performance, more, more… Customers will always ask for something based on what they already know or have already experienced… According to Ann Latham; yes you should listen to customers but don’t just do as they say! Too often customers know what they want but not what they need…

Most customers often can’t think out of their current paradigm to consider something new or revolutionary… The only way to really tell what you’re customers will do is not to ask, but to give them a choice and watch them choose… The companies that look beyond what their customers say or what they ask for, and also spend the time to discover what they really ‘need’ seem to be the businesses that really succeed. According to David; give people what they need, not what they think they want. The gap between ‘need’ and ‘want’ is trap that separates ‘good’ from ‘great’ businesses. It’s not an easy trap to avoid and responding to a customer ‘s every expressed whim is process that gives you mediocrity.

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According to Michael Krigsman; customers can be extremely helpful in identifying gaps in products, but real breakthroughs doesn’t usually come from customers. Yes, you should absolutely listen to customers, but don’t expect that they will always lead you to the place you want to be… According to Gary Hamel; the future is already with us, and it’s just at the edges… What starts off as fringe ends up mainstream. So, if  you are going to listen to customers you may want to start with those noisy, complaining, fringe customers who are always asking for something completely different from what you are currently offering, of course, providing they are really your target customers…

Remember that true business breakthroughs, true change, will never happen through simply listening to customers… Finding the perfect balance between listening to your customers on one hand, and maintaining a broad, holistic, and sustainable strategy, on the another hand, is very challenging…

But just listening to your customers is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for short-term success and long-term failure. Stay curious, stay open, stay creative, keep innovating, keep pushing for breakthroughs; think different, think big… business’ job is to give customers not what they want, but what they never dreamed that they wanted; then when they gets it, they recognizes it as something they wanted all along…