How to Turn Customer Input into Innovation

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Think back to the last time you launched an unsuccessful product. What actions led up to that launch?

Were there brainstorming sessions with your team to determine what made your last product launch successful? Did you weigh the pros and cons, the cost to produce vs. the expected revenue generation? You probably took all the necessary steps that business owners would take when launching something new… but you missed one.

There is a fine line between business and consumer, but involving your customers in your product development process is crucial. Your customers know what problem your goods and services need to solve and can help you get there. It’s time to ask your customers what they want your products to do for them, not just what they want. writes that in order to create better products, you have to embody “A new way of listening to customers. And a radical shift from customer-driven to customer-informed innovation.”

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Determine the process or activity associated with the product: Let’s say you are developing a new dental tool. Before you can go any further, you need to narrow down the process in which this tool will aid in (so, a cleaning or a surgical procedure).
  2. Choose customers for outcome-based interviews: Then, figure out who the key players (customers) are that would buy/use your product. In our example, it would be dental technicians, dental assistants, and possibly the dentist office accountant who worries about costs of new products. To get the best results, Inc. says to, “Select the most diverse set of individuals within each customer type. The more diverse the group, the more complete the set of unique outcomes that is captured.”
  3. Record the outcomes: This requires some skill and a moderator who is able to weed out unhelpful answers. The point of an outcome-based interview is to determine the outcome of a specific product. Again using our example, a question could be: Discuss the difficulties you encounter when performing a surgical dental procedure. Another could be: How would you perform this procedure in the most ideal situation without any technological limitations? You don’t want them to develop your product, you only need to know what the product needs to accomplish.
  4. Organize the outcomes: You developed a process in the beginning so now you need to organize the outcomes based on that process. Determine which outcomes would fit into what step in the process and organize them in that way. You could also decide to organize them based on the groups of people you selected.
  5. Rate the outcomes’ importance: Using a different group of customers (but still ones considered key players), conduct a survey where you ask them to rate each outcome in terms of its importance. This will give you a good place to start when you get to step number 6.
  6. Start innovating: By now, you should have a solid list of outcomes and ones that rank high on your list, based on your customer’s desires. What need is currently not being satisfied? And how can your team develop a product that will satisfy it? Start with these questions and you’ll see innovation soar.

Following these six steps will help you create a product that is not only what your customers want, but one that they need. And it will help you enjoy long-term success.

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