If you are going to create a product that fulfills the needs of the customer, you have no choice but to listen to what the customer has to say. Steve Jobs had been known to say that all of Apple's breakthrough innovations have come from listening to customers. However, he did also say that focus groups and customer surveys did not yield the same results. That's because those tools are useful for tweaking existing products, but they won't help you innovate.

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Customers only know what they like and don't like from the products that are already out there. They can't possibly imagine emerging technologies or extremely innovative ideas. Asking them what they want is going to yield mundane results that won't translate into a superior product. Instead, ask customers how they want a product to make them feel and what they want it to do for them.

In order to create value in your customers' lives, you need to understand who they are, how they live and what they want. Figuring out what their values are helps you understand what objects and services are important in their lives. If appreciation for beauty is a core value for your potential customers, a focus on the appearance of your product is in order. If freedom is an important value, the product should free up the customer's time for other pursuits.

Also crucial to the Voice of Customer process, is the mapping out of the process a customer goes through in the consuming of a product or service. First, there is the pre-decision thinking, then the actual purchase - whether online or offline, and finally, the actual consuming of the product. By talking to the customer, observing him, and pretending to be him, you can come up with ways to make the product more valuable.

Many entrepreneurs believe that they have figured it all out, and that they know what value they provide. But in fact,

" target="_blank"> the customers are the ones that decide whether your product has value - and what it is. That's why Voice of Customer is so crucial.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.