5 Things That Will Help You Turn Customer Input Into Innovation

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After launching a startup you are faced with a daunting choice: you either innovate or you try to offer product and services similar to those of your competitors. And choosing can be difficult because once you’ve made your choice; you will have to stick to it. So how can you be sure you’ve made the right choice that will bring success to you and your company? The truth is that you can’t be 100% sure.

And while some people prefer to go the safe route and create something that resembles products and services of other companies that are a part of the same market, there are some business owners out there that think they’ve caught lightning in a bottle. And one of the ways they manage to do this is by using customer input to let them know about your new services and products.

So that begs the question, how can a business owner that is new to the business world launch a product that can be innovative? Most entrepreneurs go about it the wrong way. They prefer to ask clients about the things they want from a product or service instead of asking what do they want your services or products to do for them.

Nowadays, every company, even your local grocery store will pride itself saying that it offers the customers what they ask for. And you might be inclined to think that offering the people what they want will guarantee that your company will register success. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Customers tend to offer solutions for what they want within focus groups or by means of survey while they sit back and let the R&D department do their magic and turn their input into materialized ideas. And when the service or product is launched by the company, the reaction of the customers to it is a total flop.

Why? Here is some perspective for you. When customers are asked what they want from a product or service they usually offer solutions, desired features, products or services. They limit themselves to this because they only know what they’ve experienced and encountered. They can’t comprehend to know the ins and outs of new technologies, materials and other such things. So they choose to offer suggestions that already exist in the market, products or services created by other companies.

It is the job of the Research & Development department to come up with unimaginable concepts and not the customer’s duty. To enhance the imagination levels within your company, you could ask your customers for desired outcomes instead of solutions.

Ever heard of Cordis? The medical-device company has created the artery stent. By doing this they have managed to double the revenue of the company within two years, while the stock value has skyrocketed. And they managed to do this by paying close attention to what the customers had to say.

Here’s how Cordis has managed to shift from customer-driven to customer-informed innovation while turning a remarkable profit:

1. First of all, they scheduled outcome-based customer interviews. By doing this they managed to deconstruct, step by step, the underlying activity or process connected with the service or product. And once the process was defined, they carefully selected the customers that will participate. They did this knowing how important it is to narrow the number of interviewed people to specific groups of people that are involved in a direct manner with the service or product. Also, they took into account selecting the most diverse set of individuals within each customer type because diversity will offer a more complete and unique picture that captures the outcomes.

2. Second of all, they captured the desired outcomes. They used a moderator that was able to distinguish between outcomes and solutions, while eliminating irrelevant comments or vague statements. In this instance, the moderator acts as a translator, transforming the solution statements of the interviewees into outcomes. This was done by asking them why they want the solution they offered. Afterward, they went through each step in using the product/service – the difficulties the interviewees have encountered and the ideal scenarios.

3. Thirdly, they organized the outcomes. Once the interviews were completed, researchers created a well-comprised list of the outcomes, while also removing the duplicates. Also, they categorized the outcomes into groups that would later correspond to each step in the process.

4. They continued by rating the outcomes based on importance and satisfaction. Once they created a categorized outcome list, they conducted a quantitative survey where the desired outcomes were rated by different customer types. The interviewees were then asked to rate each outcome based on the importance and the degree to which the outcome was satisfied. The results were crunched through a mathematical formula that revealed the attractiveness possibility of each outcome.

5. Last but not least, they used the outcomes as a way to jumpstart the innovation process. They used the data to discover the areas that presented the best opportunities for product development, market segmentation and even improved competitive analysis.

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