If any process in your company should be customer-driven, it should be the one developing products for customers, right? So try this at your next review: Ask team members how many hours they spent talking to customers… and how many hours working internally. You may be surprised at how little time was spent understanding customer needs.
More in article, Should Your Stage-Gate® Get a No-Go?
Imagine you’re planning to build a new home: Your architect sees you for half an hour, spends the first 15 minutes talking about sports, and then shows you pictures of other houses he designed. Later, when the house fails to please you, he dismisses it saying, “Well that buyer just didn’t know what he wanted.” Ever treat customers this way?
More in article, What is New Product Blueprinting?
Most of their thinking goes into adjusting their hardhats. Too bad: Tour insights provide great context for interviews… and your “fresh eyes” may yield ideas for improvement. You might see what everyone else has seen, but think what no one else has thought. You just need to learn the proper skills to do this.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 17).
For every job a customer does, there are dozens of potential outcomes… so diverge with customers to uncover far more than competitors. Then ask for 1-10 importance and satisfaction ratings so your R&D can converge on the important, unsatisfied outcomes… while competitors guess. I’d like to make this sound more complicated, but it’s not.
More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 8).
Innovating companies that directly engage their customers have operating income growth rates three times higher than those that do not. When you see a gulf of 3X, it should scream “opportunity!” Gaining customer insight in an engaging manner may be commonplace in the future, but today it’s a competitive advantage. Will you seize it?
More in article, Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is a Flawed Goal
Confirmation bias is the “tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses, regardless of whether the information is true.” It’s what happens when you take your lovely new-product hypotheses to customers. This systematically distorts data on customer needs… and that can’t be good for innovation, right?
More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).
Large businesses chalk up thousands of face-to-face customer meetings each year… as sales and technical service reps go about their normal duties. Why not train these people to become VOC experts? They’ve already gained customers’ trust, they know the customer’s language, they’ll get key information first-hand, and there’s no extra travel cost.
More in article, The Cost Cutter’s Guide to Growth (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).
And that’s the point, isn’t it? If we just try to develop the products our customers ask everyone for, and we haven’t cornered the market on R&D genius, we’ll keep struggling with differentiation. But if we intentionally expose ourselves to unexpected information—that our competitors lack—we’ll create more significant, protectable value.
More in article, Do You Really Interview Customers?
It’s much more likely you don’t know how to ask them. B2C customers can seldom describe what will entertain them or boost their self-esteem. But B2B customers are knowledgeable, interested, and objective. They may not know the solutions, but they do know their desired end-results. You’ll learn this when you learn how to ask.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 15).
One of our best innovations started as an experiment. In 2004 I projected my notes during a customer interview. The customer loved it, the meeting went far longer than expected, and we haven’t looked back since. Sure, customers can correct your notes this way, but our biggest discovery was that customers own what they create and can see.
Read more in the article, The Best Customer Interviews Use a Digital Projector (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).
Lean Startup methodology refers to “Leap of Faith Assumptions,” and recommends testing assumptions with customers at the first opportunity. For B2B, this “first opportunity” to learn comes before a prototype is created… through VOC interviews to mine the foresight of knowledgeable customers. Don’t miss this B2B adjustment to Lean Startup.
Read more in this white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 6).
Avoid “technology push.” But should you just leave your technology quivering on the lab bench? Hardly. Conduct customer interviews without mentioning your technology. If customer outcomes match your technology… wonderful! Otherwise, look for different technology (for this market), or look for another market (for this technology).
More in article, Should You Develop New Products like Steve Jobs? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).
Skip qualitative divergent interviews and you’ll fail to uncover unexpected customer outcomes. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. Overlook quantitative, convergent interviews and you’ll fail to tightly focus R&D on those outcomes customers deem important and unsatisfied… the only ones worthy of a price premium.
More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 8).
Many suppliers ask “low-lumen” questions that neither illuminate nor engage customers. They may be biased, close-ended or too complex. Beware requesting sensitive information, or asking, “What would you pay for this?” When you ask for problems, don’t try to “help” with examples. Instead, let the customer choose the next topic to discuss.
Read more in article, Lean Startup: A Great Approach Requiring “B2B Pre-Work” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth.) Lean Startup wisely recommends testing assumptions and learning from customers at the first opportunity. For most B2B suppliers, this “first opportunity” to learn comes before a prototype is created – through early voice-of-customer interviews that mine the insight and foresight of highly-knowledgeable customers.