The success of every company is dependent on its ability to create products and services that address unmet customer needs. Despite this fact, in over 95 percent of all companies, marketing and development managers don’t agree on what a customer “need” even is. More specifically, they do not agree on what characteristics a customer need statement should possess, what information it should contain, its purpose, and how it should be structured. The first step in becoming a customer-centric organization is agreeing on a customer needs definition.
Over the past two decades, we have worked to overcome this fundamental problem by inventing the “perfect” customer need statement. Our work is grounded in the fundamental belief that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. Looking at markets through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we’ve discovered that a customer need is best defined as a statement that describes how a customer measures success and value when getting a job done. We call these statements “desired outcomes”. A desired outcome statement is uniquely structured to detail how customers define value and how a company can help create it. These statements, often totaling more than 100 for a given job, describe the precise dimensions along which customers potentially seek to get the job done better.
Take the job of listening to music, for example. Consumers tell us that they seek to (1) minimize the time it takes to find desired songs, (2) minimize the likelihood of choosing unwanted versions of a song, and (3) minimize the time it takes to change the order in which songs are heard. These customer needs examples show they are measures of customer value, actionable and controllable through product design, predictive of success, independent of a solution or technology, and stable over time. These are characteristics that “perfect” customer need statements should possess, as they enable an organization to align itself around the creation of customer value.
These unique customer inputs form the foundation for our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). Learn more about customer desired outcomes in the MIT Sloan article authored by Tony Ulwick, Giving Customers a Fair Hearing.