Don't interview customers, walk in their shoes: almost by definition, key assumptions don't get articulatedBut there are certain things participants may never think to tell us. Frequently, these are moments they don’t recognize as disruptions to their experience, but rather, they see them as small annoyances or frustrations that they have adjusted to over time. To catch a glimpse of these small but highly significant moments, we need to conduct field research. Field research, put very simply, is getting out of the lab and into the world to talk with and observe people in their environment. It’s trying our best to walk in their shoes, see their point of view, and understand the context they live and work in. By seeing it ourselves, we recognize workarounds, physical artifacts, and motivations that are essentially invisible to our participants.
Murakami’s advice on business and writing: make (at least) a few customers very happy | pullquoteIf one out of ten enjoyed the place and said he’d come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it the other way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten didn’t like my bar. This realization lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to make sure he did, I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what.
Sherwin Williams "dates" its customers“We’ve always looked at business more like dating than war,” Wells noted. “It’s a theme that runs through our 140-year company history. In war, you’re focused on beating the competition. In dating you’re focused on strengthening a relationship. That difference of perspective has a million knock-on effects for how decisions get made.”
Their job is to scour the web to learn all the features people wish a product had, and hire a manufacturer, often in China, to make the desired version. Pikarski lets each buyer create their own Hipe-style brand name, and order anywhere from a dozen to a truckload of units. If they sell well, the product is renewed. Otherwise, it's junked.
The year after I left eBay, for example, the site was down for about 22 hours. It was a disaster. What Meg decided, and it was really a key moment in her leadership, was that we were going to call every one of our top 10,000 sellers and apologize. She wanted to make sure the company internalized that we’re here to serve real human beings, and when we make mistakes, there are consequences.
It’s no secret that in many industries today, upstream activities—such as sourcing, production, and logistics—are being commoditized or outsourced, while downstream activities aimed at reducing customers’ costs and risks are emerging as the drivers of value creation and sources of competitive advantage. Consider a consumer’s purchase of a can of Coca-Cola. In a supermarket or warehouse club the consumer buys the drink as part of a 24-pack. The price is about 25 cents a can. The same consumer, finding herself in a park on a hot summer day, gladly pays two dollars for a chilled can of Coke sold at the point-of-thirst through a vending machine. That 700% price premium is attributable not to a better or different product but to a more convenient means of obtaining it. What the customer values is this: not having to remember to buy the 24-pack in advance, break out one can and find a place to store the rest, lug the can around all day, and figure out how to keep it chilled until she’s thirsty.
Franck Debieu, who runs a bakery in Sceaux, a small town south of Paris, tries to be in his shop as often as possible to gently coax his clientele toward a more bronzed baguette. His sales staff, which always includes a baker at the counter, is trained on how to handle requests for "white" baguettes, usually by handing customers a properly baked loaf and suggesting they try it. Mr. Debieu says his peers who underbake their bread are delusional. "The customer doesn't know what's best…It's the baker's job to educate him."