Understanding customer needs on their terms

Last week I was explaining to someone about my son and how you should not tell him not to do something as this puts it into his head and creates the impulse to do it. I also mentioned that we could not tell him “don’t push” because this means nothing to him – pushing a child or pushing a door is the same thing unless he has clear direction otherwise.

Precise use of language is important in Market Research, but this article is about the relationship between the service that I provide as a parent and how it responds to the innate needs of my son.

Just 2 years ago I thought he was an ordinary child with no idea that his brain worked differently and so his needs were different. As a result I have made a number of mistakes that now means he will simply avoid certain activities, as I mentioned negative workds do not work and neither does shouting.

Although we do not have a formal diagnosis (we need to jump through a few more hoops) but the likelihood is that he has a combination of autism and ADHD. Initially we had concerns about labeling him this way, but it has meant that we (and his teachers) can manage his behaviour and help him to develop.

It also means that we can help him far more effectively with events like going into the playground that can be quite traumatic.

The same is true of customers – no one likes to apply labels to customers but by doing so you can begin to dig deeper into their motivations. These do need to be genuine customers – profiles that are completely made up can be farcically inaccurate.

Profiles can be built up from staff, desk research, internal information or even from the customers themselves. Techniques such as Appreciative Inquiry (AI) can be used not just to understand the customer types, but also how best to respond to them in fact there will be times when applying what employees see as best practice will annoy the customer.

Like most customers, my son has a limited ability to tell me how to improve but there are ways and processes to resolve this.  Like many customers he would describe a faster horse rather than an automobile, but we are working to understand why he wants certain things (this is extremely difficult when you cannot ask why) and meet his underlying needs.

For innovation and even continuous improvement, the most effective tool on the market is without doubt the “Jobs to Be Done” framework, this allows you to communicate with customers on their level (if you are talking with engineers you should be discussing engineering solutions but this is unlikely to be relevant or helpful when interviewing a homeowner).

Give me a call or visit my website for more information

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