UPDATED: As of 21 July 2022
Finding a product, a service, or a niche that delivers results largely depends on understanding exactly what your customer needs. And in a time when the competition is manic and ruthless, it is all the more essential to deliver a high-quality product and service that gets the right traction.
If you’re a business aiming for differentiation in the market, it is worth noting that the best opportunities can be found in your customer’s unmet needs.
Let’s face it. No matter what industry you may find yourself in, no customer will think about buying a product or a service from you unless they actually need it or at least think they need it.
So unless you want to offer a product or service that gets woefully ignored, you need to clearly understand what your customer wants. Or to really stand out, find a way to satisfy their unmet need.
Here are some ways you can identify your customer’s unmet needs to help you discover new business opportunities.
1. Examine disruption factors
How do you prepare for the unpredictable? Most organisations don’t have a game plan to navigate the evolving business landscape. There is a major shift going on today around how businesses cater to customers and disruption in this area can look like this:
- Customers taking control of their experiences
- Democratisation of knowledge
- Rise of entrepreneurs and solopreneurs
- Increased burden of compliance
Brands that have cultivated a direct relationship with their customers are the ones who saw the most growth despite the challenges. Whether you're looking to craft a customer-centric approach or improve customer engagement — there is value in focusing on the needs of your customers above all else.
But first, you have to understand what disruption looks like in your business in order to craft solutions for them.
2. Adopt Lean principles
Much has been said about the Lean approach. One way to wrap your head around Lean principles is that it’s all about maximising the value customers are willing to pay for while eliminating waste.
This approach has four core enablers:
- Jidoka or the process of making errors visible through a scoreboard
- Gensu Genbutsu or going to the source of the challenge and solving it systemically
- Muda or the elimination of waste in all its forms
- Kaizen or the constant pursuit of continual improvement
If you’re an organisation looking to leverage Lean principles, understanding the 5 steps of Experimental Kaizen is a good place to start. This entails:
- Smart hypothesis – tightly define what you think is true.
- Data-driven benchmarking – be explicit about the results that you expect from your hypothesis and collect benchmarks along the way.
- Test by building – go beyond abstract research and generate real responses from real stimulus.
- Measure – both the qualitative and quantitative data around what customers do.
- Reflect – use the experience to verify or challenge your hypothesis and make adjustments.
Essentially, unmet customer needs make room for wasted interactions and opportunities. Lean principles help identify and address the wastage while helping you create better experiences and products for customers to have.
3. Map your customer journey
When you’re unsure about where to start, it’s important to understand your customer’s current struggles and identify what their pain points are.
Creating a customer journey map helps you visualise every process that your customer goes through in dealing with your product or service. It takes you through every specific touch point in the process that plays an integral part in converting them from leads to loyal customers.
By mapping your customer’s journey, you can spot potential bottlenecks in the process that can mean the difference between an actual conversion or a lost opportunity.
Below is an example of a customer journey map.
Whether or not your customer is looking for an easy way to navigate through your product offerings or needs to be more engaged, looking into your customer journey map will help you
Once you’ve identified what stage they are getting stuck at and determined your clear steps to fix it, then the likelihood of them converting is great.
4. Use existing customer data
In reality, you don’t need to look very far to pinpoint what your customers are asking for. The easiest way to identify customer pain points or unmet customer needs is by checking any data you may already have from common support drivers.
In other words, you want your customers to feel heard and this starts by identifying the following:
- How does the change fit into their lives?
- When and where are they thinking about it?
- Pain Points
- What do they not like about the situation?
- What annoys them?
- What do they hate doing?
- What drives their decision?
- What do they desire from the change?
- What is their decision-making process?
- What are their fears and the barriers surrounding the change?
- What are their concerns and negative feelings?
- What are their misconceptions and erroneous beliefs?
Take a moment to look into common customer questions and concerns about your products and services. Dig into call and chat logs, purchase histories, reviews, surveys, forums, or social media to find out what your customers are saying about you and what features and services they may be asking for.
5. Listen to the Voice of the Customer (VoC)
The best way to find out what your customers need is to get answers straight from the source. Voice of the Customer programs and surveys are popular for getting real-time feedback and insight into what your customer feels about your products and services.
Using real customer opinions, VoC is a great way for you to augment existing services for better customer satisfaction. It empowers you to deliver only the best product and service that your customers need.
Alternatively, VoC gives you useful insights that can be useful when you’re thinking about doing some market research into what products and services your customers are looking for and whether or not a product you’re developing would be a good market fit. By keeping close track of what your customers are saying, you can grasp new trends quickly, which you can use for better product development.
Ask your users about their own experiences when using your products. Listen to their recommendations.
Here are some questions you need to ask your customers:
- What do you think is the biggest issue with product X?
- How satisfied are you with our service?
- How can we do things differently?
- What products would you like to see added to the brand?
- What features would you like to have available to you in the future?
- Would you recommend us to your friends/colleagues?
Once you have a good idea of what your customers value, you can use these to inform the design of your product or service.
The Design Thinking Tool is designed to help you anticipate and manage your end user’s experience, and in creating value around it.
It dives into eight key questions:
- Who: Who are the users? (Different user segments that value different things)
- Why: Why do customers care? (The functional, emotive and self-expressive benefits it brings them)
- When: When will the product/service be used? (Specific occasions: consider before, during and after)
- What: What specific feature(s) will deliver value to users? (Something users are willing to pay for)
- Which: Which existing products/services/capabilities could this new initiative leverage or be deployed with? (Complementary products within, and potentially, outside your business)
- With: With which partners/platforms can you collaborate to add value to clients? (Platforms facilitate the creation/exchange of value)
- Where: Where can you reach and communicate value to customers? (The channels and pathways to market)
- How: How can you go to market in a scalable way? (Consider the role of data, information and technology. Can we utilise network effects to our advantage?)
This way, you have the opportunity to develop an innovative concept for a product or service that is relevant to your customers.
6. Perform competitive analysis
Getting familiar with your competitors and what products and services they are offering can help you stay relevant to your target audience.
Knowing exactly what the competition is offering and keeping abreast with essential new features that your customers are asking for can help you develop and improve your own products that meet these same needs.
It’s important to note that your competition is not just businesses that sell the same products or services; your competition can be in the form of new market advancements and trends that can make or break how effective your products can be when launched today.
One way to know if you have a clear opportunity in today’s competitive market is if it passes the quality test below. You know you have a fighting chance in today’s playing field when:
If you are unable to say ‘yes’ to any of the above qualities, then take some time to re-evaluate your offering according to these benchmarks until you’re confident that it meets the standard.
Tying It Together
Businesses go to great lengths to stand out in their market. But we’ve found that really listening to customers' needs and keeping your ears to the ground opens the door to more opportunities than any market research ever will. Today’s best innovations have been discovered by simply taking the time to pay attention to a customer’s unmet need.
Unmet needs are opportunities that can spell differentiation in a highly dense marketplace. It may take some effort to uncover what these unmet needs are, but as soon as you do, it positions you front and centre and exactly where your customers are looking.
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