Friday, June 12, 2009

Utilizing consumer feedback for improvement and breakthrough innovation

We constantly preach on the importance of innovating across the full Business Design (as we define Business Design):

It all starts with gaining deep insights into the target customers by uncovering new needs to satisfy or creating new outcomes uniquely vs. competition. How do you get these insights? Do you ask the customer or do you study them? Ellen affords interesting insights that I wanted to share in this posting (consumers in this context are both business-to-consumers and business –to- business customers):

”The way consumer research is utilized in your innovation process should depend
on the degree to which you are improving an existing offering or trying to
develop a breakthrough……..
…….Consumers can be asked about what they like or
dislike about certain products, or why they use or don’t use them. This
information can be used as criteria to guide improvement programs……
…….On the other hand, utilizing consumer research to guide the development of a
breakthrough is not straightforward at all. Consumers can be asked about their
reasons for doing what they do, but they cannot be expected to tell you what to
do. The goal should be to discern their decision process, the motivations that
drive their decision processes, and the values through which all choices are
filtered. This information should then be translated into criteria by which
successful solutions can be chosen…..
…….When the goal is to develop a breakthrough, it is important to focus on what motivates a consumer to engage in
specific behaviors that help them to accomplish their goals. Knowing how
consumers decide what to do in different situations is the key to understanding
these motivations, and criteria for success will ensure that the consumer will
perceive your new offering as necessary to their success.”

Clearly, studying customers is critical for breakthrough-type projects regardless of the type of offering. Be cautious how you use the term “voice of the customer” because it can be deceiving. You must discern not only the type of improvement you hope to make and therefore the approach to gaining the insights but also you must understand who the critical decision makers are the customer.

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