If you keep giving your customers what they want, they’ll keep buying whatever it is you’re selling.
To find out what new product / service your company should be offering in the future, your first point of call should be getting feedback and opinion your existing customers. After all, they’re the ones that bought from you in the first place, right?
The fact is, most customers don’t know what they want. Or rather, they don’t know what they want until it’s too late – for you to offer it to them, that is.
Customer Feedback Isn’t Gospel
Ask a customer what their pain-point is today and they’ll give you their answer. However if you ask them again tomorrow there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the same response. Or a similar response. Or any response.
If you’re a small business owner or product manager solely reliant on customer feedback for product development, this puts you in a real bind. By the time you can offer the new, improved version of ‘your thing’, your customers will have moved on. They will want something else.
So what’s going on? Why can’t customers just tell the truth and stick to their guns? Why can’t they just tell you what they want, so you can make it for them – and charge them for it?
The reason is because their frame of reference is different to yours. While yours remains static, theirs is in a continual state of fluidity.
Let me explain. As far as you’re concerned, all that matters is that your business makes money by offering something that your customers want, at a price they’re willing to pay. Right?
This is where the paths diverge, because customers have a different agenda. Customers don’t really give a stuff about your product, your organization, your problems. Sure, they’ll help you out with answering questionnaires, agreeing to be interviewed for a testimonial, and give you a recommendation on LinkedIn. But at the end of the day their focus is on making their life as easy as possible.
Today, that might mean buying and using your product or service. Not because it has a particular feature, is sold in packs of 10, or comes in Midnight Blue (even though they may be important factors). The ultimate underlying reason is because it allows them to solve a particular problem they have, in their life. At home, or at work.
Customers Only Care About Themselves
Customers are too concerned with what’s on their plate right now to really think about the future. They’ll continue to buy and use your wares while it continues to help them empty their in-tray at the end of every day.
The day that’s no longer true is the day they’ll bail on you.
Perhaps your product/service is longer no fast enough for them. Perhaps they can buy an alternative that solves their problem for less than they’re paying you.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, their needs have changed to the point where what you offer no longer matters to them.
You could make the world’s best VHS recorder, but if your customers now prefer to watch movies on Netflix, it no longer matters. Perhaps all the customer feedback data told you they’d buy your VCRs until the cows came home.
That doesn’t mean they were lying. It means the problem you were solving for them was watching movies – not having something on which to play video tapes. When a better / faster / easier / more convenient way came along for them to watch movies, they jumped at it. It was not their job to let you know what was coming tomorrow – it was yours.
To ensure that your business value offering maintains its relevance, you need to find out what your customer needs are tomorrow, not today.
And asking them is rarely the best way to find that out.