Do You Really Know Your Customer?

We regularly notice a gap between business organizations and their customers. One source of this chasm comes from an assumption that we already know how customers think. There is a sense that managers can perfectly role-play their customers. We often believe we know what our customers want.

We also observe that even those organizations that do wish to involve customers in the early stage creation process often miss opportunities to become deeply connected to customer thinking. They are often primarily interested in simply validating an established idea, concept, prototype or thought process.

Here are few insights that will help you get more out of your customer engagement processes:

Be willing to share power. Use a customer facing process that allows members of your team to learn directly from your customer and in their environment. This requires a bit more organizational effort up front but makes it much easier to translate and leverage customer input. It also creates that critical early organizational buy-in.

Be in the learning mode. Free yourself of preconceived opinions and past experiences when you interact with your customers. Use customer engagement techniques that allow you to learn how your customers think and how they make value trade-offs. If you enter this process with the mindset of “knowing it all or knowing most of it” you have already lost the game. Become deeply curious.

Put your customers in the learning mode. Use customer engagement techniques that facilitate a deeper learning experience for your selected customer groups. This way the quality of their input will be of much greater value. Guiding customers through a learning experience allows them to gain deeper insights into their own environment and helps you to translate what really matters to them.

If you develop a deeper level of self-awareness related to these three insights you can refine your customer engagement methods and increase the likelihood of innovation success.


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