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Customer focus

Observing customers to work out their needs and wants

Asking customers what they want will only give you limited answers. They will only suggest things that they already know about. For example, if Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said: a faster horse!

To innovate you must come up with something your customers probably haven’t imagined, that addresses their hidden needs and wants. You need to discover how the customer feels about your products and services, what pains them and what delights them. Here are some tips for active looking to understand your customer needs.

  • Ask questions to understand how customers feel rather than what they want. Ask them what impact they want – is it speed, convenience or safety? Ask them what frustrates them – is it waiting, lack of choice or something else?
  • Observe customers as they interact with your company. What delights them? What frustrates them?
  • Use data to identify customer habits, patterns and preferences.
  • Challenge your assumptions. Just because you’ve always thought something and others think the same, doesn’t mean it’s right. Ask yourself: what if and why?