Building cars for the common man – What made Henry Ford successful where others had failed wasn’t just his vehicles, excellent as they were—it was on one hand his unique understanding of the potential of those vehicles to transform society. On the other hand Ford envisioned the needs of his potential customers and decided to develop a car for the average American.
Ford didn’t rely on his “customers” to find out what and how he should make his cars. He once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
The goal is to learn who you are building for, not what to build.
It’s common practice today to use usability tests, surveys and other methods to get into your users mind. However, there is no point to go out there and ask your customers what they want because most of the time people simply don’t know. This is especially true when it comes to innovation and innovative products. If customers were asked to improve the music listening experience back in a day where CD players ruled, they likely couldn’t have envisioned the iPod. There are 2 main problems here:
- Customers can be terrible at predicting their future intentions when asked via a survey or a similar form of feedback.
- No matter what businesses do to strengthen their survey methodology, sometimes customers are just going to lie.
However, it is still a good idea to gather feedback from your users even though Steve Jobs himself stated something like: “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” But the truth is, you probably aren’t producing the next iPhone. And you probably don’t have world class designers on your team. In fact, if you want to make sure you never fall into the trap of not knowing what you don’t know, do talk to your customers. Understanding your customers’ wants is a pivotal part of growing your business.
It’s obvious that asking customers exactly what they want is the wrong approach. You probably end up building a faster horse. Instead you should focus on improving your customer’s experience. Ask question like “What are you struggling with” and find out how you can improve their life. Don’t focus on specific features or what content they’d like to see.