What Customers Really Want



I was involved in a conference last week that left me painfully aware of the missing "voice of the customer".

However it did bring to mind a great book I recently read - What Customers Really Want by Scott McKain.

Not to be confused with the product management text What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony Ulwick. Completely forgettable in my view, and arguably dangerous in the wrong hands ... particularly when it gets into the dangers of having customers actually involved in the process!

.. well perhaps one good thing about "What the Customer Wants" is that when picking it out at the library I discovered "What the Customer Really Wants" only a shelf away.

I still can't find "What the Customer Really ReallyWants".

Back to "What the Customer Really Wants": in the first few pages I was skeptical, expecting the book to be yet another meaningless management ra-ra piece. Luckily Scott managed to catch my attention before too long and it soon became clear that the book is a gem. Scott McKain talks from the perspective of real experience, and his no-bullshit, folksy plain talk is a welcome relief from the "gurus". Importantly though, it is not just about experience, but also the fact that McKain has distilled and can share valuable insights as a result of that experience. Most are in the "bleeding obvious - but why haven't I thought of that before?" category.

Even the book's organisation is refreshingly to the point. Six main chapters covering six key disconnects..
What Customers REALLY WantWhat Business Supplies
Compelling experienceCustomer service
Personal focusProduct focus
Reciprocal loyaltyEndless prospecting
DifferentiationSameness
CoordinationConfusion
InnovationStatus quo

"Continuous improvement is the enemy of innovation". That got my attention. It's an interesting point of view: Kaizen - constant change - has its role. But innovation is anything but about being constant - its about seeking the dramatic step change. The problem is that most of us cannot cope with being completely focused on incremental change AND at the same time the search for shattering innovation.

The customer is not always right .. but they are always the customer!