We were designing a product for a particular customer segment when one of the technical “experts” decided to take one design direction because he knew better. 

He said, “I have been doing this for many years, and I “know” what customers want.” 

Forget the fact that he wasn’t a designer; he still thought he “knew better.” 

Why? 

Design is such a subjective topic. Everyone has a point of view. It’s not like you are engineering the system of an autonomous car, right? THAT for sure needs expertise. But design? Everyone can do design. Or so they think. 

What was the target customer segment?

The target customers were Emirati women, career-oriented, prefer to read and write in Arabic, have specific needs and challenges… and a whole lot of other criteria. 

I asked him, “Why do you think it’s better?” 

He said he knows what customers want. It has been his job for God knows how many years. 

I asked him, “Are you an Emirati woman who wants to do X and Y and use product Z?” 

He didn’t have an answer. 

No matter how many years of experience he thinks he has in this domain or any other domain for that matter, he couldn’t possibly know what the customers wanted.

If only I could count the times I have heard statements similar to the below, I wouldn’t be able to keep count. 

  • “We know our customers’ challenges.” 
  • “Our customer challenges are x, y, and z.” 
  • “We hired consultants in the industry who know the customer challenges even better than our customers.” 
  • “We don’t need to ask our customers because we know best what is best for them. They don’t know what they want.” 
  • “We are consultants. We know best. That’s why the client hired us.” 

Sad?

Yes. But, it’s true.

Even when the “technical experts” get convinced somehow that doing customer research will bring value, resistance is often driven by one of two (if not both) factors: 

  1. Budget 
  • “We didn’t budget for this.” 
  • “We don’t have the resources for this.” 
  1. Timeline
  • “We have to deliver the project within X weeks.” 
  • “We don’t have time for this.” 

What can we do about it? 

Educate all those involved in product design, service design, and any design for that matter on the importance of customer research. Because no matter how many times you attempt to wear the customer hat, you are not the customer. You don’t live his or her life; you don’t go through the same challenges or day-to-day obligations. You don’t have the same dreams, fears, or ambitions. You are not them.

How can you possibly “imagine” the life of a specific customer if you have no clue what are their dreams, fears, motivations, and ambitions?

Sure. You can create a mock-up fictional persona and go far with your imagination, but that’s just it. It’s your imagination. 

Customer research doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Sure, if you decide to use all Earthly methods to do your research, you will never finish, and it will cost you a lot.

The good news is that now, more than ever, there are more and more tools that allow you to conduct research in a fraction of the time. The method will always vary depending on the resources and the type of insight you are trying to collect. 

Heck, thanks to the lockdown, now you can do online workshops and interviews over Zoom or MS Teams.

Whether it’s observation, surveys, focus groups, interviews, social media listening, or reading online forums, there is always value. 

Customer research is a goldmine, and it’s not only helpful in one or two things. It provides a wealth of insights that will help every step in the way when you… 

  1. Build or revamp your brand
  2. Ideate new products and solutions 
  3. Create your value proposition
  4. Create new products 
  5. Test products to know if anyone would actually use them 
  6. Work on your marketing strategy 
  7. Write your copy 
  8. Develop your advertising campaign 
  9. Plan your social media content
  10. Drive sales and pitching conversations 
  11. And the list could go on and on and on… 

When was the last time you heard someone say they knew better?

Join the waitlist for my upcoming book, “Why no one is buying your product?” to learn more.

Click here to join the waitlist.

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

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