How can companies get great ideas from their customers?
As I wrote about in Part 1 of True or false: Customers are a great source of ideas, it's not enough to just ask customers what improvements they want, or what new products they're desperate to buy.
Because customers usually don't know themselves what they really, really want.
In fact, most of us don't know what we want until we see something on the market that blows us away because it fulfills a need that we sometimes didn't even know we had.
Does that mean that people and companies should just come up with ideas on their own without the input of prospective customers?
Only if they want to learn that customers hate their new product or service after it goes to market!
So, here's the Catch-22:
There's no point in asking customers what they really want--because they usually don't know. But it's even worse to NOT to ask customers what they want and end up with a failed invention.
How in the world can companies come up with great ideas then?
The trick is to stop asking customers what they want, and let them show you want they want!
Design company Ideo uses this tactic very successfully. When they're innovating, Ideo employees spend a lot of time simply watching customers do the thing they're thinking about.
- When Ideo was asked to redesign toothbrushes for kids, they watch kids brush their teeth.
- When they were challenged to create a better shopping cart, they watched shoppers in a grocery store.
- When Ideo was looking for a way to attract new customers to a bank, they watched how people managed their financial data.
In every one of those cases, Ideo designers found opportunities in the actions of customers. They observed that:
- Although children have smaller hands, they grip toothbrushes with their fists, instead of their fingers like adults.
So... Ideo created a toothbrush with a bigger handle that's easier for small hands to grab.
- Regular shopping carts are horrible for maneuvering and that shoppers frequently leave their carts at the end of aisles for more flexibility.
So... Ideo created a shopping cart that is easy to turn (to make it easier to navigate crowds) and with removable baskets so customers can have the flexibility to go down aisles without their car while still having something to put the food in.
- Many bank customers have trouble saving consciously, but also round up purchases to the nearest dollar to make record-keeping easier.
So... Ideo came up with the "Keep the Change" savings program, where customers' purchases are automatically rounded up to the next dollar and the change is deposited in a savings account.
Interesting, isn't it?
What other products or services have you see that have arisen from observing how customers act?
And, what ideas have you come up with after watching people?