Effective Customer Needs Analysis

Focus on the jobs-to-be-done And see customer needs differently

Customer Needs Analysis Essentials

Effective Unmet Customer Needs analysis is dependent on two factors: (1) knowing what customer inputs are needed to create improved and breakthrough products, and (2) knowing how to capture them. Much has been written about customer needs analysis and the importance of understanding the customer. Companies spend considerable time and money towards this end. Yet, companies rarely know all their customer’s needs.

Here is why: success in innovation doesn’t come from understanding the customer. It comes from a deep understanding of the job the customer is trying to get done. After all, it is the desire to get a job done that causes customers to buy a product or service in the first place. This means that customer needs analysis must focus on the job the customer is trying to get done. This notion has led us to create a whole new way to define, capture, and use customer needs to create breakthrough products and services.

The Inputs Into Innovation

We’ve discovered that customers typically use between 50 and 150 metrics, called outcomes, to judge how successfully they are able to execute any job-to-be-done. These outcomes are the customers’ needs. They are the power behind our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). Capturing them all is not easy. But with 20 years’ experience at customer needs analysis, we get customers to articulate all their needs. And it is possible to do so because customers know perfectly well what success means to them when getting a job done.

Take the job of listening to music, for example. People can articulate that they consider the job successfully accomplished if they are able to find desired songs quickly, can avoid choosing unwanted versions of a song, and can quickly change the order in which they listen to songs.

Looking at customer needs analysis from this perspective changes everything. When needs are thought of in this way, there is no such thing as a latent need or a need a customer can’t articulate. Furthermore, outcomes are stable over time: they often don’t change for decades because the job-to-be-done remains the same. Consequently, once all the customers’ outcomes in a market are captured, a company’s ability to create customer value in that market is enhanced for years to come.

Capturing The Inputs Into Innovation

Customer needs analysis is dependent on knowing how to capture a full set of desired outcomes. We often employ a four-step approach. The first step is to conduct personal interviews in order to dissect the job the customer is trying to get done into process steps. We call this process “job mapping.” The job map is created so the company and the interviewer have a clear understanding of what job the customer is trying to get done.

The second step is to conduct one or more ethnographic or observational interviews with customers to gain insight into the context in which the job is getting done. This helps the interviewer be more effective at capturing and refining desired outcome statements in subsequent interviews. These interviews also may be used to better flesh out the job map and begin the outcome gathering effort.

The third step is to conduct personal, group or observational interviews to elicit from customers what metrics they use to measure success in executing each step of the job. This is where the bulk of the desired outcome statements are captured and the heart of the customer needs analysis discipline. The fourth step is to conduct one-on-one interviews or literature searches if needed to fill in any missing details that remain after completing the first three steps.

Learn more about customer needs and jobs-to-be-done theory and how this thinking has changed the customer needs analysis process.