Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 11, 2019


You might think that your product or service is great, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t what your customer wants.

But how can you go beyond your own gut instinct to be sure you’re really meeting customer needs? We spoke to industry experts to get their advice on how to understand what your customers need:

Don’t push your solutions

When speaking to customers, innovators make some key mistakes. First, they ask leading questions that are loaded with social desirability problems. For example, asking customers whether they like your product will elicit positive responses because very few people are willing to be critical of other people’s ideas to their face. Focus on trying to deeply understand customers’ needs and problems, rather than pushing your solution.

“The second mistake is asking customers questions about their future behaviour. Very few people can predict what they will do in the future under different circumstances. Instead, ask customers how they are solving the problem today, and how much that is costing them.

“The final mistake innovators make is asking customers what products to make or the features those products should have. Very few people can imagine future technologies, so will just mention something similar to their current solutions. Customers own needs and problems, innovators own solutions – the more we understand customers pains, the more likely we are to make products customers really want.”

Tendayi Viki, Craig Strong and Sonja Kresojevic are co-authors of The Lean Product Lifecycle: A playbook for making products people want, published by Pearson, priced £11.74


Use behavioural science

“Why don’t people do what they say they do? This is a question companies often ask after investing time on costly market research to understand what their customers want, only to find that their customers won’t pay for the product or service, or don’t want it after all. This indicates that there is a substantial intention-behaviour gap.

“Behavioural science is a way to reduce the intention-behaviour gap and to get a deeper understanding of what customers really want because it focuses on identifying the factors, benefits and attributes that really drive behaviour and decisions in the real world.

“Conventional research often asks people about their attitudes and beliefs, or asks about the product or service out of context. But conventional research often fails to get at the ‘truth’ because it does not address the complex interaction of social, psychological and emotional factors that influence our decisions.

“Behavioural science focuses only on behaviour, makes use of behavioural theories and models to work out which factors really matter, carefully considers the context in which the product or service will be used and then works out how and where to intervene to change behaviour. In this way you can find out what people actually do, not just what they say they do… and hence design products and services that customers really want and will pay for.”

Helena Rubinstein is a Behavioural Scientist at Innovia Technology and author of Applying Behavioural Science to the Private Sector (Palgrave Macmillan).


Look for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency

“If the speed with which ecommerce growth has outstripped that of stores over the last 15 years has taught us anything, it is that the consumer is looking for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency from their shopping experiences.

“Technology has been the key enabler of these new dynamics. It has become the main differentiator between today’s retail winners and losers. It has put those retailers who started out online, like eBay, Net-a-Porter and Flipkart, at a distinct advantage. But Alibaba, and Amazon have made the most gains.

“As a technology company first and a retailer second, Amazon, the US giant’s focus on giving customers more of what they really want has afforded it unprecedented competitive power to reshape the industry landscape, both online and offline. From its ‘1-Click’ checkout through to its ‘no click’ checkout-less Amazon Go experience, Amazon has pioneered ‘frictionless’ retail to give customers the level of convenience they now want.”

Miya Knights is co-author of Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce, written with Natalie Berg, published on 3 January 2018, priced £19.99

Nick HagueNick HagueMarch 20, 2019


There are only three ways to make money: sell more products, increase your prices, or cut costs. 

The easiest action may seem to be to increase prices, but if you don’t deliver additional value for the higher prices then it won’t be long before customers start to look around for alternative suppliers.  

So what about cutting costs? A cost-cutting strategy is only temporary as it cannot be sustained in the long term.  

That therefore leaves only one possible growth strategy and that is to sell more products, which is easier said than done. If it was just a question of hiring a new sales rep or spending money on advertising and watching the new flow of business, everybody would do it. 

Access to new customers in new territories is indeed why office-supplies chain Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba’s international wholesale marketplace have inked a ‘strategic collaboration’. However, research shows that the most important factor driving long-term growth is great Customer Experience.

Market research company Forrester, for instance, found that customer experience leaders grow revenue at a rate of 17 percent compound growth – considerably faster than the customer experience laggards. Meanwhile, consulting group Accenture estimates that the business costs of poor Customer Experience is as much as $1.6 trillion from US customers who switch their service to a different brand or service provider.

There can be no doubt about it then: exceptional Customer Experience is critical to growth.

But what is a great Customer Experience? It isn’t just having the product delivered on time in full. It isn’t receiving a product that works as promised. This is a good experience but the customer is simply receiving what they expect.

Great Customer Experience is something which pleases the customer so much it may never be forgotten. A customer that is short of product and needs an urgent delivery will remember for a long time a supplier who pulls out the stops to solve the problem. It’s why a customer that has been struggling with a technical issue that is quickly solved by the supplier will almost certainly repay with loyalty. A supplier whose deliveries never fail, whose products never disappoint, who is always available to deal with enquiries and does so promptly, will be thought to offer a great Customer Experience.

Great CX is built on emotions, and small companies tend to know this. They will often work nights and weekends to solve a customer’s problem. They will bend over backwards to be nice to customers. They will deal with them promptly and efficiently. They know that without customers they cannot pay the rent. Small companies understand the importance of engaging emotionally with customers and offering great Customer Experience.

There is then, something that can be termed, the ‘corporate curse’. When companies grow, especially business-to-business companies, they can lose this emotional attachment. Large B2B companies need processes to ensure that their products are made efficiently. Departments are set up to run production, finance, sales, marketing and HR. These departments may be superbly managed but they can also become silos, working independently of each other, viewing customer requests as inconvenient disruptions to their efficiency. When customer satisfaction levels are measured amongst the customers of these large B2B suppliers, the results are almost always mediocre. 

A number of key Customer Experience pillars are required to escape this trap. These include total commitment to Customer Experience by the leadership; an avoidance of silo mentality, with everyone within the B2B supplier that can solve the problem taking ownership of it, and being quick and easy to deal with. This is vital, as Amazon well knows.

But beware: the things that please and excite today soon become standard. Providing great Customer Experience requires suppliers to constantly be thinking of different and better ways of serving their customers. It’s why Amazon and many other retailers seek to offer ever faster and more convenient delivery options and locations.

The only long-term way to make more money is to deliver exceptional CX. Alibaba and Office Depot, along with their very many competitors, need to remember this.

Inform. Inspire. Include.
A free way to improve your business.

Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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