Customers have a huge desire to tell us what they want but alas many entrepreneurs and business leaders are more interested in telling or selling than taking the time needed to really hear their customer. Hold on now, am I saying that customers actually know what they want and are willing to tell us?
MIT Professor Eric Von Hippel reviewed almost 1200 successful innovations ranging across nine industries and found that 60% of them came directly from customers. In my recent book Leading the Starbucks Way I talk extensively about how Starbucks innovates products, processes, and environmental aspects based directly on the input of customers. One powerful way Starbucks benefits from the suggestions of it loyal customer base is through the website mystarbucksideas.com. The site solicits customer input and allows other customers to vote up or down suggestions. Popular ideas are explored by Starbucks partners and dialogue between customers and the Starbucks team brings the best-of-the best ideas to fruition.
In the absence of a site as robust as mystarbucksideas.com, our next best approach may be the old fashioned conversation with a customer where we spend time understanding the pain points they encounter in working with us or other providers of our services. Those conversations coupled with exploration of what products or service would make their lives more enjoyable all function to help us forge solutions based on the ultimate innovation resource – your customer!