Every company’s dream is to uncover hidden market opportunities, which will lead to a major winning innovation. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Customers and consumers are seldom able to formulate their opinion or to express their need. Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.”
When an innovation is driven by the need of a customer, you are doing the customer centric innovation.
Here are five ways to implement customer centric innovation.
An organization can critically undertake an optimal consumer centric innovation through an ‘observation’ and ‘co-creation’ Model.
IDEO designed baby tooth brushes in fatter shapes with soft and a squishy grip from their experience of observing kids having difficulty to hold on to their toothbrushes with their tiny fingers.
This is using customer as a consultant approach to innovation. Today, customer’s user expertise is shared to design and deploy better products. For example Ducati has set up an online tech café to co-create with their biking enthusiasts. The online community has 1000 plus experts. The expert community gives continuous advice to the Ducati R&D department not only as Ducati fans but also as great technical experts. Some of them have even developed new designs for the next Ducati bike. As a result the major part of product management, R&D, and new designs are co-created via online communities.
# Think psychographics
Psychographics relate to the ignition of customer impulse, the propensity to purchase products that make them feel cooler, hip, trendier, sophisticated, etc. – thanks to a plethora of knowledge sharing platforms and the dynamic Web 2.0 age.We can think beyond the demographics now.
When GM followed a motto ‘a car for every wallet’ they made five different brands of cars to satisfy different customer segments. It was a demographic model that worked very well in the industrial era but lacked the fuel to sustain the acceleration in the information era. Contrary to GM’s market endeavors, when the Japanese car manufacturers introduced more fuel-efficient cars in the American market, they were meeting the psychographic needs of the customers. Finally psychographic wants of customers began to trump their demographical needs. To apply a powerful customer centric innovation model it is very important to recognize the hot buttons of a customer which is the urgency to do business only with you.
# Apply constant customer need analysis or CCNA
Most companies fail to realize customer’s need before they deliver. Considering this scenario, following a ‘Constant Customer Need Analysis’ (CCNA) program can create a better model for co-creation. CCNA is a strategic customer needs enquiry process and method developed by Paul Robinson. CCNA helps in a continuous dialogue that allows companies to clearly identify and address to the hidden needs of customers. Most of the needs can be observed as frustrations, hot buttons, aspirations and goals of customers. But the real identification is in sharing information with a two-way open and continuous dialogue. By applying CCNA on platforms like social media, blogs & Twitter brand conversations, companies can actively engage with customers, understand their primary concerns, needs and desires, both present and future. Applying CCNA is more like how a reporter and a lawyer will approach a case. There is a friendly investigative tone, like ‘may I help you, or can we work on this together?’ The CCNA dialogue is not a one-time affair. It is a constant and consistent CRM exercise even after you have delivered the solution.
Customer centric Innovation demands keeping a continuous listening stream flowing right up to the customer and in the process, developing a one-on-one relationship. Otherwise there is no scope of absorbing their changing perceptions and expectations. Expectations, explicit or implicit, as a mass movement can become wants which is where a marketer can act.
# Read between the lines
As Henry Ford aptly said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ “Ford’s quote about “a faster horse” isn’t really a definitive debunking of market research. Look at it again. “Ford’s customers didn’t say that they wanted a ‘safer’ horse or a ‘more comfortable’ horse. They said that they wanted a faster horse. They were perfectly clear about what they wanted: speed”
The truth of the matter is that customers may voice out their needs in a language where the innovator has to really decipher. It is the innovator’s job to read between the lines and come up with right solutions. In a market place where supply can also create demand, we can longer presume to think what the customer wants. We can also hardly assume what the customer wants without entering into their world. Therefore the job of a customer centric innovator is to figure out what the customers look forward to, before they even realize what do they want.