What Customers Really Want

Growing up, mom called me by the wrong name so much I would respond to just about anything. “Buddy, ah Lloyd ah, ah Carla!” Carla? Once, mom called me by my sister’s name. I was fine hearing the others but not my sister’s!

This was not a high point for a 12-year old with a voice that could sing soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and who had less facial hair than a bowling ball. As mom recited names like she was reading contacts from her phone, I sat quietly. I knew she wanted me to perform some dirty chore and I was a smart-ass.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough; this tactic had been unsuccessfully tried before. Mom marched around the house becoming angrier with every step until finding me engrossed in the TV. Before she could say another word, I looked up and stated, “You didn’t call me!” Of the millions of things I could have said at that moment, this statement was one of the worst. She put on her mom-face, seared holes into me with her eyes, and bellowed, “You knew what I meant!”

“You knew what I meant.” As entrepreneurs, we need to search beyond what’s being requested and solve what is needed. We get so engrossed in addressing customer requests that we don’t fully understand their problems.

Innovation isn’t found in requests; it hides within needs. No one asked for touchscreen smartphones with thousands of apps. They wanted bigger Blackberry’s. No one asked to binge-watch seasons of TV shows. They wanted bigger DVRs. No one asked for the Amazon Echo to control home appliances. They wanted smoke detectors that didn’t chirp at 4:00 AM when the battery dies.

Your customers will never know your business or its possibilities as well as you. They won’t know what to ask. By better understanding their needs you can apply your innovative skills to solve their problems. Don’t just listen to what they request. Know what they mean!


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