Postscript: Don't Ask The Customer What They Want
In my last post, I discussed the importance of not asking your customer what they want, specifically if the goal is to disrupt the market. It was meant as a provocative post to get us thinking about when it makes sense to gauge customers for your next idea versus when it doesn't.
In response, i received some interesting feedback. One friend commented that while the idea was interesting, Jeff Bezos and Amazon would disagree. Another comment was that customer centricity had to be at the core of everything we did as a business - if we didn't pay attention to the customer, we would become myopic and misled in our commercial journey.
Of course, this is correct. We need to listen to the customer. We need to, in the words of Bezos, be relentlessly customer focused - indeed, customer obsessed. Without the voice of the customer to guide us, we cannot meet their exact needs, fill the critical gaps that help them achieve their specific goals.
But listening to customers doesn't mean they always know what they want, that they can think ahead and help you create the products that will fundamentally change the way their core needs are met and hence the future competitiveness and viability of your company.
As I said in the last post - why should they? That's your job, not theirs.
And Jeff Bezos agrees:
"You need to listen to customers, (but) they won't tell you everything. You need to invent on their behalf."
Invent on their behalf. That's exactly right.
Of course, you must listen to customers, especially as you evolve, refine and change your product or service. Their input will tell you what they don't like about what you provide, how it works, how it impacts them. Their feedback will allow you to progress from 1.0 to 2.0 and beyond.
But the reality is that, to change the game, no amount of customer feedback will tell you exactly what you need to build to meet their needs in an entirely unique way. A way that will set you aside from the rest of the market, a way that will disrupt the marketplace. It certainly might give you pointers, perspectives and maybe a set of 'what-not-to-do's", but it won't cross the last mile for you.
For that, you have to ideate, iterate internally and experiment. You need to create and then re-create to get to what you believe the product should be. And then, you must have the faith, the courage and the bravado to step beyond and offer them something they haven't thought of.
Again, the customer isn't going to tell you what they don't know.
That's your job, not theirs.