Focus on the customer and the income will follow – an advice that’s common in many business text books. Sounds logical, and it is. If you do focus on the customer and give him what he needs, you should do everything right in order to create a commercial success with whatever your product or service might be. But, who is the customer and how do you know what he really needs? In most cases their needs are not written on their faces, in most cases they themselves do not know what they need, they can only articulate what they want.
In most cases cases the consumer’s needs are driven by a fundamental one, of which there are not too many around: among the few basic ones are security, belonging, stimulation, autonomy or physicality. The latter drives the need for food, but only in combination with some of the other needs, ingestion turns into a restaurant visit: Hello from Maslow!
In our new economy it’s all about the fulfillment of experiences, rather than to secure the more basic requirements of everyday life (to stick with Maslow). Customers in the ‘experience economy’ need to be holistically and simultaneously served in their needs, before they decide on a product or service, and then consume. It’s not longer sufficient to be the cheapest, the smartest or the most competent offer around – it all depends on the experience one provides, and if this experience fits the consumers personality.
This means that designers and developers need empathy, if they want to meet these ‘un-articulated’ needs. They need an antenna to receive the correct signals emitted by the consumers and the market place. Because in the end it are those solutions which sustain and succeed on the market which are able to design and provide an experience in line with consumer’s need.
For the technology-driven industry this opposes a huge challenge, since they produce for the masses and therefore simply do not know their customer annymore – they became to plenty in size, shape, sex and spending power. But nevertheless they need to focus on the customer to whom they address their brand’s promise, in order be authentic. And they need to know the customer or user in order to conceive products and services for them. And this can never be everybody: If you design an experience for everybody, you will fulfill nobodies needs!
In this challenge the high-tech mass-production industry, as well as any small enterprise, can learn a lot from the hospitality business. The quick hunger is served well by a fries-parlor: clear and simple menu, legible from the queue, quick preparation, swift service and low prices. The multiple star restaurant delivers culinary delight within the appropriate ambience and against corresponding prices. Irrelevant how ingestion is turned into a service offer, it is in the experience and the soundness thereof if it’s accepted by the consumer – and delivers the income in a sustainable, profitable way.
And this is a true challenge to industry that’s driven by standardization: so far the marketing experts were using shotguns to hit the market, based on the motto: rather we hit someone, than missing out with a careful shot.
But today you have to focus well and aim on that which delivers a true valuable return: satisfy your (and not anybodies) customers need, deliver an experience for them and with that create a loyal customer base.