Product Innovation Trends

3 Ways Customer Needs Elude Product Teams

Note: The following is an excerpt from our Forrester Consulting commissioned report, The State of Modern Product Delivery. Read the full report for key insights on the current trends and challenges in product delivery.

Satisfying customers is a huge challenge (see figure below). Lack of clarity about needs causes organizations to spend precious time, money, and resources creating solutions that don’t fully meet customer needs. Even when they might be capable of meeting those needs, communication with customers is often so poor that they don’t use the solution. Delivering great products requires more than giving customers what they ask for; it means listening and probing to uncover the need that underlies the requirement.

Delivering innovative solutions

  • What customers say they want isn’t always what they really need. Behind every request hides the real need; uncovering that true need usually requires careful listening, thoughtful questioning, and proposing alternative solutions. Henry Ford is reported to have said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.” Innovative solutions require discovering these real needs and using novel solutions to deliver desired outcomes. The customer’s not always right, but they’re always happy when you can solve their problems — even problems they didn’t know they had.
  • Customers often don’t know what they want, but they know what they don’t want when they see it. Listening to customers is a good start, but great products go through a feedback cycle. The faster you can get a product into the hands of the consumer, the faster you will learn what they really need.
  • Early feedback from stakeholders within the development cycle improves product quality. Even before you release to real customers, getting stakeholder feedback improves product quality and decreases cost by reducing rework. Even in cases where stakeholders were the source of the original requirements, seeing even partial solutions will often give rise to even better solutions. Innovation requires rapid feedback loops with customers and stakeholders, and the earlier the better.

Read the full Forrester Consulting report on The State of Modern Product Delivery complete with key recommendations.