How do You Find Out What Your Customers Want?

You could just ask, but that wouldn’t give you a product or service worth the money you might put into it – 50 to 90% of the product and service initiatives by US companies are failures. This costs in the magnitude of $100b per year.


And that’s taking into account that these companies have adopted customer-driven thinking. Innovation needs to be outcome-driven to create breakthrough products and services, writes Anthony Ulwick in What Customers Want.

Ulwick encourages us to think about how customers see the world. They:

– buy products and services to help them get jobs done
– use a set of metrics (performance measures) to judge how well a job is getting done and how a product performs

These metrics therefore make it possible for companies to approach the creation of breakthrough products and services in a systematic and predictable manner. The companies that figure out what jobs customers want to get done and how they measure success in getting the job done have a leg up.

That advantage may translate into profit. This methodology comes at a cost – that of having to think differently about innovation, learn new skills, and give up asking customers directly how they’d like to see a product improved, for example.

The author concludes the book with ten tactical tips that have helped companies overcome some intrinsic barriers to success. Among them:

1. Separate the roles and the information-related needs of marketing and development.
2. Treat the adoption of outcome-driven innovation as an investment in infrastructure.
3. Share needed information across the organization.
4. Repurpose the customer satisfaction study.
5. Treat the discovered opportunity as sacred.

Bottom line, it takes a little more than just asking to find out what customers really want. Innovation is a process and it is constantly evolved by practice.

Valeria Maltoni | Conversation Agent