How Listening to Your Customers Can Bring Better Innovation
Innovation is trendy, certainly the buzz word of the past few years and brings a new paradigm into many companies.
In the constantly changing environment, companies want and have to innovate to remain competitive, grow their business and change their image.
Many business owners think that asking customers about features they want to see in their product is pointless. After all, no one knows better than the owner, in which direction a company should go. Plus, your customers don’t really see the value or a particular need until they use the new product.
Win your customer’s heart. There are many benefits of listening to your customers. But the most important is the strong relationship you create with them. When you listen to them, you learn about their problems and pain points that need to be solved.
If it was easy, everyone would be successful. But you can’t improvise, you need to be well organized, trained with the right approach, tools and techniques. An effective and well-built approach is mandatory in order to really make a difference.
Indeed, there is certainly a cost associated to it: engagement (very much from Top Management), time, resources and money. When well-planned and organized, you will minimize the cost and have quick return on investment!
One common mistake we see is the attitude: “we know our customers and what they want… and by the way, we can bring in the usual consultants that we are used to working with”, those that often bring experiences from your own competitors. Not really good to differentiate yourself from competitors and be on the competitiveness edge, ahead of the game!!
Guess what: Innovation is more powerful and efficient when actively listening directly to the customers rather than the existing market!!
“Actively listening” does not mean just collecting facts and insights, putting them on a set of slides and presenting them to teams. There could definitely be valuable insights, but they remain analytical and factual.
“Innovation starts by intimately observing your customer” – Jeremy Gutsche
Through active listening, company representatives would listen for the concerns and needs from the customer, including the unspoken ones behind their words, the problems and opportunities that they are facing now. Such a listening approach is more than the information gathering of traditional market research and powerpoint presentations of data.
Active listening also allows you to establish and build a collaborative relationship with your customers, where you engage with them and they become partners in the solution identification, testing and implementation.
You can also gain new customers: Regular customers spread the “word of mouth” about a good experience they received from your company. They are also more likely to talk about it using social media.
While brainstorming, company representatives bring their own experiences and backgrounds to illuminate customers’ present situations in new ways and help invent new opportunities for the future. At this stage, the listeners are in a position to explore the kinds of products and services that will produce the best value for the customer, either through product/service improvement or new offerings’ that can be developed.
Lastly, should you wish to be more provocative in your thoughts and launch true breakthrough innovation, you will have to be very picky and selective on your sources, customers as well as sponsor!!
“Focus on how the end-user customers perceive the impact of your innovation – rather than on how you, the innovators, perceive it” – Thomas A. Edison