Listening to customers is not enough

It is not sufficient to “listen to your customers.” Companies must seek to understand their customer. Consider the fabled quote from Henry Ford, “If I had asked what my customers wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Customers are unlikely to know what the next twist in technology, creativity or process improvement could give them. Therefore, they are not going to be able to tell you what next improvement they want. But had Ford listened to his customers on the way to understanding them, he may have heard complains about dealing with a living creature for transportation. Perhaps he would have heard how riding a horse left the rider exposed to the weather. He may have also heard about the painful cost of feed and care for the horse even when no transportation is required. These inputs would lead a clever marketer to create transportation that is mechanical and offers some protection from the elements.
Don’t listen to your customer except on the way to understanding your customer. That understanding will lead your company to providing what your customers really want.


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