What does a customer need?

Unhappy customer

We already discussed customer needs aspects in our blogs: Happy New Customer! Ensure customer satisfaction! and Take a customer’s function away to satisfy the customer.

The satisfaction of customer needs is a crucial driver of technology development. More than that, our civilization evolution depends on the satisfaction of a customer.

Why is it crucial? Because the only product or service that customer accepts and is ready to pay for gets a privilege for existence. Hence, everything is in the hands of the customers and depends on the customers’ needs. If you want your business to be successful, make sure your product and services satisfy your customers’ needs – solve problems your client has.

There are many books and articles that one can find which talk about customer needs. The majority of them are focused on asking one question: “What does your customer need?”
Different sources give different roadmaps, but they all based on the same concept: “Ask him: What he wants? What he prefers? How he would like to change something?”

In the best case, entrepreneurs are trying to understand the real customer’s problem buy working with them closely and focusing on how they currently work (or do something), many times even spending days personally with a client.

We are proposing a slightly different, simpler and more systematic approach.

Our technique is based on two simple concepts:

  1. Do not ask your customer: “What do you need?”. He simply does not know. Through, he will give you an answer, it will push your thoughts and decisions in the wrong direction. The customer usually does not think about the real problem that he has.
  2. Ask your him: “What keeps you busy? and why?”. Once you figured that out, your one and only objective are to prevent your target client from doing whatever he does today.
    The reasoning is that your customer solves problems too and that is exactly what keeps him busy.

The best supplier’s chance of finding what customer wants is to prevent his from his current activity.

The process

Even though the proposed concept might look trivial, there is still a lot of work that needs to take place prior to the needs analysis.

Ask the questions in the following order:

  1. Who is your potential customer?
    This is probably the most important step. Your potential customer should be open to you. You should be an expert or at least be able to gain all the necessary information about your customers. So, avoid touching areas which out of your scope or reach.
  2. What keeps him busy?
    Describe the activity of your customer. You must describe what is he doing in detail. What keeps him busy at the moment? To answer this question you can either ask your target audience or answer yourself based on your experience.
    As an example: a mechanic does not repair a car, he is checking the oil, replacing filters, etc…
  3. Why is he doing this? What is the purpose of his action?
    Describe why your customer is doing it. Which problem he is solving? Make sure you understand exactly the purpose or goal that he is trying to achieve by his action. To answer this, similar to the previous question as to the previous question, you can either ask your target client or give an answer yourself.
  4. How can you solve his problems? How you can prevent the activity under question?
    The answer to this question is the potential product or service that may have a chance to survive.

If you have certain skills in the creative thinking tools any of them will help to identify your the needs.

We elaborated a method Action Preventing Action (APA) which helps to identify customer needs. The tool is currently under development and will be available in the PRIZ Guru Innovative Platform in the nearest future.

Our next blogs will provide detailed examples of our new APA tool use-cases.

Ph.D. in Chemistry. Expert in processes design, improvement and problem-solving. TRIZ (Inventive problem solving) specialist (Level 3).

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