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unearthing your customers true core desires

In our paper, Doing Digital Transformation Right, we talk about how most companies focus on the digital-first, looking at transforming their businesses by using technology.

This technology first approach works for some things but doesn’t effectively transform your business. You see, we feel that the transformation needs to occur first, and then you can apply the digital to that transformation. But what should you transform into?

You should transform into a company that fulfills your customer’s and prospects’ core desires.

You might think that you are already doing this – but in reality, what you are doing is providing services that your customers are using to fulfill their desires themselves. They are using your products and services in the way you built them. They may not be a complete match to what they desire, but they can use them as tools to reach their desires.

For example, let’s say that you are a travel company and provide a website and app for customers to book travel or create trips. Your prospective customer desires a vacation and a holiday destination. That is their desire. What do you provide? The tools for the customer to find and book their trip. You think, win-win – the customer gets what they want, and you get what you want. But this is not so.

Customers looking to book a trip will spend hours and hours looking through listings and reviews. You haven’t aligned with the customer’s core desire to have an awesome trip – all you’ve done is given them more work to do.

Your services and their desires are misaligned.

To make matters worse, technology comes along to make other services that the customer uses seamless – they can book a ride in such a seamless fashion that they never even need to go to the effort of paying for it (everything happens automatically).

People are being spoiled by technology in other areas, easily fulfilling their desires, but not when it comes to your company. So they jump to another slightly better one, but still not there. All of these travel apps have the same things in common; they feel that giving the customer the power to do their own work is more useful and aligns with the customer’s desires than doing it for them.

This is a false assumption, especially in fields like travel were “doing it yourself” has become incredibly complex. No wonder human travel agents are coming back in style.

But I digress.

The reality is that humans are mostly lazy. We are designed to try to get the most out of the least. The most reward for the least effort and we are willing to pay others to do things for us because we’d rather not. A travel customer’s core desire is to have that awesome trip to Italy, at the right price, visiting the right places at the right times, with the right experiences. It’s not to spend hours and days trolling travel websites for the perfect deals.

Think of it this way, your company and product is a tool. Customers use these tools to build what they really want. They don’t want the tool; they want the results of the tool.

They don’t want to have to build the house; they want the house. They want the results, not the tools, and most companies provide the tools and let the customers do the building.

But what if that time is over? What if technology has now spoiled your prospective customers into thinking that technology could provide them with the results, without having to spend the time or effort to build them?

So how do you dig down into the customer’s core desire? Simple. You ask them what they want or need, without the filter of what you can provide for them. No matter what you already provide, probe your customers for their deep-seated, high-level desire. Get those desires out into the open. Listen to those desires, even if they seem to have no connection to your current products or services.

Suppress your problem-solving filter and just listen. Capture their desires, their ideal states, what they would really like.

Going back to the travel customers – if your typical travel site did this, they might hear from their customers that they would like to be able to have the perfect trip to Italy, leaving at the best time for the customer, going to the places and seeing the sites the customers want to see, at the right price point and the right time of year. The customer probably has some idea for the kinds of places they wish to see – much of this might even be gleaned by some big data analysis of the customer’s social stream.

In the customer experience ideation focus group (which is one of the most popular groups we run), we use exercises to pull out the customer’s desires in a perfect world. We listen without judgment, without problem-solving, without solutioning. We capture everything we can, then allow the customers to leave. Once the customers have left, we huddle on what we’ve heard and recorded and attempt to glean the customer’s core desires.

Once we’ve determined what we feel are their desires, we can solve them independently. It’s key that we don’t limit the solutions to things that our partners or we can provide. The solutions should address the customer’s core desires directly.

In the travel example, the solution could be a service that interviews a customer, then goes off and using a combination of big data mining, human and AI research, develop a perfect trip plan for the customer – or even better, several trip plans. We then present those trip plans to the customer and let them “tweak” them. But the core of the trip plan should be designed and developed by the company, not the customer. We take that feedback and refine the model further. Eventually, after a few iterations, the customer may have a near-perfect travel plan. They can then execute it.

You see, across most industries, technology has allowed us to give our customers the tools to attain their desires, instead of moving forward and fulfilling their desires.

In future posts, we’ll explore various other industries, like banking and retail, and discuss how these industries should transform to align better with customer expectations, based on their technology experiences.


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