A customer-oriented product development approach will not only result in a successful solution to a specific problem, it will also impact long-term business success. Developing a product around customer needs and preferences should not be based on historical behavior, however. Rather, product development should invite customer input for the purpose of understanding what will be truly impactful for the customer today. The 90’s notion of “Build it and they will come,” must be replaced by a new idea: “Build it with them, and they will stay.” The customer is then seen as a partner with whom to identify a solution. This is substantially different from creating a product based on assumptions and guesses, and hoping customers will use it.
Taking the time to get to know the customer should be the first and most important step in customer-centric product development. What are their goals? What problems are keeping them up at night? How much are they willing to pay for a solution? Customer requirements must be identified in order to deliver an appropriate product or service. According to The Boulder Group, once there is a clear understanding of the customer’s “beliefs, desires and environment,” product development teams should be able to answer the following questions:
- What are the meaningful customer/market requirements for a new or enhanced product?
- Which customer requirement will the product development effort target to create competitive differentiation in the market?
- Which product features represent value for the customer and which exceed customer expectations?
- How much will it cost to build this product, what is the value in the market place?
In gathering customer input, the product development team performs a key role, that of consultant. In this role, the plethora of information gathered from the customer is distilled in order to provide a product (or service) which will solve a problem in the most efficient way and cost-effective way.
Setting appropriate expectations around a completion timeline, as well as product components, prevents customer confusion. Once the right expectations are established, it is necessary to follow up with the customer to keep them informed regarding the project status. These updates help to reassure customers that they are an integral part of the process.
When new products are launched, a customer-focused approach ensures that value-added services are also introduced. Complimentary software packages, recycling programs and product-based support, for example, are all ways to demonstrate a commitment to customer success.
Organizations certainly exist which assume more product-focused methods for developing new solutions. Some industry leaders even fall into this category. They are typically the unicorns whose innovations were those first-to-market products that have changed the way we live. Still, the argument can be made that at some point, in order to maintain their position, even the unicorns have had to tap into customer insights at one time or another in order to stay ahead of the curve.
In DeltaTrak’s 30 year history, developing products based on customer requirements has become second nature. We listen to our customers first, then develop products. This approach has secured DeltaTrak’s position as a leading cold chain management innovator in the industries we serve. For information on how DeltaTrak can support your business, contact your dedicated account manager or call 1-800-962-6776.
Karner, Philipp, “Customer Driven Product Development: It all starts with your ideas,” Ventum.Digital, 2021, https://www.ventum-consulting.com/en/ventum-digital/customer-driven-product-development.html
Smith, Anthony, “How to manage customer input in product development,” Insightly.com, April 7, 2020, https://www.insightly.com/blog/2020/04/customer_input_in_product/
Davis, Max R., “Market Driven Product Development,” The Boulder Group, 2013, http://www.thebouldergroup.net/market-driven-product.php
Luenendonk, Martin, “Product-driven vs. Customer-driven Businesses,” Cleverism, September 23, 2019, https://www.cleverism.com/product-driven-vs-customer-driven-businesses/