For many companies “voice of the customer” can simply involve letting their existing customers dictate what they would like to see in the product. Sometimes, more influential customers (those with a strong contribution to overall revenue) can drive product strategy. However, just because one large company wants something does not mean that there are lots of customers with this same need. Individual customers generally have little concern for the needs of other customers.
In this scenario, it is often easy to lose sight of the market demand – if your corporate strategy is to deliver a broad-based market-driven offering then focusing on individual customer demands may not help you to achieve this – it is more likely to drive you down a services route.
Customers can provide lots of useful insights related to their use of the product and what they would like to see in our product. However, there are steps you can follow to proactively capture deeper customer insight, enabling you to focus on the broader market.
Step 1: Understand Customer “Jobs to be Done”
Identify the type of customer segment that you are targeting and describe the potential customer’s role as best you can. What jobs do they need to complete? What responsibilities do they have? Think like the customer – not like yourself!
Step 2: Document Customer’s Problems/Needs
What problems might customer’s in this segment have in performing their job or in fulfilling their role? What tasks are they finding it difficult to complete? What issues might they have with an existing product? Is there something that they would love to do differently? Use the “voice of the customer” to articulate these problems or needs.
Step 3: Prioritize Customer’s Problems/Needs
Make sure you prioritize the problems or needs identified for this segment – ask real live customers to help you. Understand the urgency of the problem/need from the point of view of the customer – is it a passive, latent or urgent problem? Are they motivated to solve it? How will it benefit them if the problem or need is addressed?
Step 4: Define your Solution
Once you completely understand the problem or need then you need to define a solution to address these problems/needs? How might this solution be architected? Are there any dependencies on 3rd party components?
Step 5: Validate with the Market
Get out and talk to customers (lots of them) to validate your hypothesis about how they operate and to begin to discuss your solution with them – you can do this before you write a line of code. Be careful though – you need to approach this in the right way – listen carefully and represent their voice as accurately as you can. Sales meetings are not good places to validate as you are typically in broadcast mode not listening mode – find another opportunity to talk to the potential or existing customer about their job, needs, priorities and objectives. Feed this information back into your definition of the customer and review your solution as appropriate.
Remember: “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him. Companies need to take a customer-first perspective to succeed…”
Peter Druker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
What Next for your Company?
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