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Should Innovation be Customer-driven?

If Henry Ford had questioned people what they wanted, would they really have said ‘faster horses’?
In the realms of business and innovation, Henry Ford was one of the world’s greatest innovators and a quotable aristocrat. Perhaps the most famous quote credited to Ford goes: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
But there are no such real evidences which could prove that Ford ever stated this, but words applied to him still portray that true innovation is done without customer input. Though one of the most successful capitalists in American history had said it, it wouldn’t make the proverb any more appropriate.
In fact, there is a possibility, that customers might have told Ford exactly what they wanted — explicitly, a faster mode of transportation. They might not have talked about the need for a combustion engine, but that’s the part of art and science of understanding customer feedback.
The customers do not always know the form factors that are available to them, and that’s exactly where your opportunity lies to innovate and cash out your innovation as a businessman. Clients often understand their problems and communicate enough information that you can use to grow your business. Here are some insights on how to get optimized customer feedback.
Enquire Thoroughly
Most of the times, customers know what they want but are unable to articulate it properly. So, you have to ask precise questions that would allow you to collect perceptions to be used for your innovation. Studies show that giving a client too many choices often nets you poor and disorganized feedback, but it’s also important to give them the opportunity to bring up something that you haven’t anticipated.
You should also ask about their personal or business problems. Never ask feature-based questions, if you are selling and innovating with technology for small businesses. Because, they aren’t thinking about technology features, they are more focused on making money and saving time. So, always ask questions around their problem statement and then bridge the gap with your talent and innovation.
Statistical Analysis of Numbers and Behaviors
A trick to get more reliable feedback indicators is to study the numbers and behavior pattern of the client. If your clients keep saying they love a product in green, but instead, each time they intent to buy blue, then always stick with blue. Study your data and behaviors persistently to make sure that the customers’ words match their actions.
Distinguish between Destructive Critics and Constructive Critics
While it’s vital to consider all the feedback, including the one from online critics and also customer services, you need to explore more into who is giving that feedback. For example, if you are receiving posts about a problem, take a deep dig into it and find out if it’s a real problem. If it doesn’t exist, disregard it.
The same insight goes for wants. A handful of individuals may go whiny wheels for a personal want, but that doesn’t signify that the broader base of clienteles wants the same, so do more research.
Also, keep a check on minions. These are the same group of gofers that keep probing for something or complaining together. If such a thing is happening, they might be just a co-dependent group of trolls you need not worry about. If you are observing different patrons giving concerned response and inputs around the same issues, that would be considered more reliable than many posts or inquiries from the same group of people. The exception to this could be when the group is well-thought-out influential among your customer base.
It’s always beneficial to solicit your feedback through private surveys instead of public ones so the vocal minority doesn’t sway your community.
Always Segregate the Relevant Group
To get a broader scope of responses and valuable feedbacks, reach out to your best existing and desired target customers. If you aren’t sure what and how your customers think, select an evocative number of people and ask them. Surprisingly, customers are more likely to provide you feedbacks if you actually ask them. But, first assure that they are true buyers of your product — if the responders aren’t going to buy your product, their responses would neither help you nor them.
Conclusively, innovation could be customer driven most of the times, but we need to play safe and keep our visions clear. Bag in all the constructive criticism since without criticism there’s no success and innovation.