What Is a Customer Need?

Much of the confusion concerning the proper role of
customer needs in the innovation process stems from an
unclear understanding of what a customer need is. Solutions,
features and product requirements are not customer needs,
and yet they have all been treated as such at one time or
another.

There are two forms in which customer needs may be
stated that properly reflect the customer’s definition of value.
First, there are job statements. A job is a fundamental goal
that customers are trying to accomplish or a problem they
are trying to resolve in a given situation (e.g., prevent cavities,
learn to play guitar or hang a picture). Second, there are
outcome statements. A desired outcome is a metric that is
used by customers to measure success when getting a job
done. Customers hire particular solutions to get a job done,
and they choose among competing solutions in order to ensure
that their priority outcomes in getting a job done are satisfied.
(For more detailed discussion of jobs and outcomes and their
role in the innovation process, see Anthony W. Ulwick, “Turn
Customer Input into Innovation,” Harvard Business Review,
January 2002; Lance A. Bettencourt and Anthony W. Ulwick,
“The Customer-Centered Innovation Map,” Harvard Business
Review, May 2008; and Anthony W. Ulwick and Lance A. Bettencourt,
“Giving Customers a Fair Hearing,” Sloan Management
Review, Spring 2008.)

Although jobs and outcomes share several characteristics
that enable them to be properly valued in the innovation
process, two in particular are worth noting. First, a good job or
outcome statement does not include any references to how the
customer need might be satisfied. This seems simple enough,
but it is challenging in practice—as it means stripping away
reference to the way things are currently done (as those merely
represent the current solution). Second, a good job or outcome
statement uses unambiguous language that will lead to a common
understanding by anyone who reads it. Thus, imprecise
words such as “reliable,” “durable” and “easy to use” must be
avoided. Such imprecision introduces variation in interpretation
that hampers innovation.

When customer needs are defined as jobs and outcomes
with these two characteristics in mind, they can become the
basis for capturing need statements that customers are able to
articulate, that are relevant across geographies and time and
that are useful for decision making by diverse stakeholders
within the organization.

Resource: What Is a Customer Need?

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About Ahmed

Software craftsman, programmer, developer, system/business analyst, DBA and PM.
This entry was posted in Innovation, Jobs-to-be-done, Problem Solving, Productivity, Project Management, Requirements, SDLC. Bookmark the permalink.

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