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  • Writer's picturePer Lindstedt

Why listening to customers may fool you

Customer insights without a clear connection to value are no insights, only distractions.

It is obvious that merely asking the customer and then just doing what the customer says is not good enough. The customer also has:

  • unspoken, hidden and latent needs

  • prefer to tell you technical solutions instead of needs.

The conclusion is that the customer must be involved early in the development process, but that this alone is not sufficient to guarantee a complete and proper picture of customer needs and resource concerns.


According to Kano, there are two types of unspoken needs. Needs that the customers cannot articulate and therefore, difficult to capture.

The first category of unspoken needs is called basic needs. Basic needs are needs that the customer takes for granted.

Unspoken basic needs can be, for example:

  • established practice, everyone in the industry does it in the same way

  • tradition, it has always been done this way

  • safety features, the customer doesn’t expect the supplier to sell a dangerous product

  • laws and regulations, the customer assumes that all laws and regulations are followed.

The second category of unspoken needs is excitement needs or delights. The first product that will fulfill such a customer need or resource concern will create a WoW-effect on the market. Excitement needs are needs that the customer does not believe or understand can be met by the product or service.

Unspoken excitement needs can be, for example:

  • needs outside the existing paradigm of what the product is capable of performing today

  • latent needs that the customer has been unable to formulate or articulate.

For example, the customer might say that the product has to be equipped with stainless steel screws. This statement makes it easy to assume the customer is stating that stainless steel screws are an absolute necessity, but that may not be the case at all. Stainless steel screws might be a solution that the customer thinks or believes meets a particular need, so it is easy to articulate the need by using a known solution. Repeatedly probing deeper brings you successively closer to the fundamental need hidden beneath the customer’s original statement.

Whenever the customer expresses needs in the form of functions, solutions or processes, a little warning signal should be activated. Failure to do this runs the risk of ending up with lots of technical requirement such as stainless-steel screws, when, in fact, there may be an even better solution from the customer’s point of view.

The prerequisite for making a quantum leap in customer value is that you first make a quantum leap in customer insights.

You have to do your homework better and more thorough than your competitors to keep or create a competitive edge.

Let's together turn customer value into a concrete and practical tool to drive your success!


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