Why are customer’s unmet needs so hard to figure out?

There are several methods for determining customer unmet needs. Guessing is one. Looking at Google search terms, another. Surveys, interview people. Many ways exist but why do products and their organizations keep failing?

There are also concepts such as product-market fit, innovation theories, and jobs to be done methodologies that require determining customer unmet needs. These methods work very well but why are they not standard?

Given that it’s so foundational to understand ‘why people buy’, how and why is it so challenging?

For one, acquiring data on the psychology of choice is hard to create. I am fortunate to say I have something that solves it fast but many other things are in the way.

Much of the problem is dealing with the world we think we know. Often, we just want ‘more’. Work harder or faster. Stay longer, take fewer breaks. My favorite: fly to all of our location offices, look salespeople in the eye to get better revenue projections. For……real.

So what are some of the problems when trying a new way to solve what our customers want? One is called ‘the anchoring trap’, which lets us bias our decisions towards the first piece of information we receive.

Much of anchoring bias comes from the people we work with, and influences from past events or trends we believe are correct. Much of the direction comes from executives who are in a rush to solve a problem in a hurry. When things change rapidly this becomes less reliable. For example, extrapolating sales from past years’ sales performance is a common form of anchoring bias. If things are consistent year over year, there’s no problem.

Utilizing a what-if scenario, literally asking ‘what if’ questions, opens up the main space for options. What are the different perspectives we can think of?

Before reading, before involving too many others in the tribe, what are your own viewpoints? How can you avoid groupthink?

Now, explore the variety – What is a wide range of opinions? For example, if you have a marketing question, why not take into account product or even operations people? Yes opens up new thinking on the topic. For example, I recently ran into a product where the profit model calls for a slight cost per transaction. We built out a scenario where the product could actually be free and paid for upstream in the supply chain. It’s not a new idea but applied to this particular product and company was new. Think about how many more you can sell if you remove barriers to distribution and transaction?

If you are the leader, avoid your POV first. Wait and then wait a bit more. Listening carefully to those NOT in charge and without judgment often finds great direction. maybe not the exact answers but significant improvements to your original idea.

Anchoring bias can be one of the most difficult inhibitors to solving customer unmet needs and solving Product-Market Fit. Building in a means to qualifying decision making is more important than anything else.

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