O'Reilly logo

Encyclopedia of Technology and Innovation Management by Gina Colarelli O'Connor, V. K. Narayanan

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 33. Understanding Customer Needs

Abbie Griffin

University of Utah

The most successful product development efforts match a cost-competitive solution to a set of fully understood customer problems. Customer needs are the problems that a product or service solves and the functions it performs. They describe what products let you do, not how they let you do it. For example, many businesspeople have a need to "be able to do any work I want, wherever I am." Products and features deliver the solutions to people's problems. Features are the ways in which products function—a portable PC delivers a partial solution to being able to work wherever I want. So does taking a secretary and all our paper files on a trip, but although this was a preferred solution for some in past millennia, this is not a feasible solution today. Solutions and features change more rapidly than needs and problems to be solved.

Customers have general problems for which they need a solution and which relate to the overall product function. General needs and problems are fairly stable. They change only slowly, if at all, over time. For example, there is a general need to "protect my feet from the environment," which shoes, as a product, solve.

However, as they say, "the devil is in the details." Customers also have very specific needs or aspects of the overall function that a successful product must also solve. These more detailed needs, which may be related to a particular feature or technical solution, often are ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required