I see it all the time. Organisations get fixated on an idea, which in isolation is a super cool idea, but unfortunately it doesn’t solve a real customer problem. Then the idea flops. So, how do you uncover those meaty customer needs that haven’t been adequately met by the current available options?
One common approach is to use traditional market research. However, there are a few limitations with this that I want to point out. First, the traditional market research usually involves pre-determined questions and fixed response sets, such as Likert scales. Although this helps with analysis and getting those great statistical statements, this approach assumes that you already know what is important to the customer. Therefore, you are unwittingly “leading the witness,” so to speak. Second, these surveys enforce rigidity on the topics explored; providing only a shallow understanding of the customer experience. Third, questions will typically centre on a specific product or service by asking customers what they liked and didn’t like about their experience. This will only result in improvements limited to the product or service questioned.
An alternative approach to identify true customer needs is to use a customer-led discussion guide to uncover frustrations or peeve points. This exploratory approach incorporates flexibility for customers to take you down pathways that are important to them. To create this discussion guide, first identify what the end-to-end customer process is when engaging with the product or service. Then, find the frustrations at each point of the process. The trick is to probe around each of the frustrations to find why it is so frustrating. Uncovering the “why” provides deeper insight into how to best solve the problem. In most cases, customers haven’t thought about why certain things frustrate them (and no doubt your competitors haven’t either!), which provides a great opportunity to fulfil a real unmet customer need.
Three top tips when conducting customer-led discussions:
1. Focus 100% on uncovering what the customer thinks, not on validating what you think; leave your assumptions behind.
2. Refrain from solving the customer’s problem.Solutions will prematurely stop your line of enquiry because your brain thinks it’s fixed the problem, case closed.
3. Buddy-up. When undertaking exploratory research it helps to pair up so that you don’t miss any important elements.
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