Stop asking the customers what they want, they don’t know!

Traditionally, companies obsess over what the customer wants. You might say that this is in fact a reasonable obsession for a company to have, after all the customers are the ones buying the products right?

In reality, customers rarely know what they want, and if they do, it will be based on already existing products that they know and are comfortable using.

Focus groups are a thing of the past

Arun Prabhu is the Global Category Director at Arla, one of the world’s largest dairy producers. He is tired of focus groups and trying to ask the customers what they want.

He believes that companies should rather go spend time with the customer, talk to the customer and in doing so, the company will discover a wealth of knowledge about the actual needs of said customer.

You need to involve the customer and show them the possibilities, not just ask them what they think they would like.

Customers can’t predict the future

Radical innovation is a driving force in many companies, it shapes the evolution of technology and often disrupts existing markets by taking completely new approaches to known problems.

As a result, research departments in many companies are often years ahead in terms of solutions, as opposed to the average customer in the real world.

It is very difficult for the average customer to abstract from their current reality and think about how their problems could be solved in the future. When presented with radical new concepts, they will instinctively compare it to the products that they already know and are comfortable using.

Show the customer how it works

Customers might have a hard time wrapping their head around groundbreaking new technologies, but as it turns out, if you show them how it works in a real situation, they are much more likely to take an interest in the product.

Mathis Dahlqvist who is the Senior Project Manager of Global Research & Technology at Grundfos has an innovative strategy for doing this. They take their new innovative technology and then they ask their customers if they can test it out in their factory. They don’t start out by saying what the technology does, but as it becomes implemented in the customer’s real world, they start asking questions and soon they feel a connection to the development of the technology. And that drives the innovation forward.
As Mathis Dahlqvist puts it, you need to get intimate with your customers.