Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is self-evident that delivering great customer experiences requires a deep understanding of customers’ needs. There are several examples, including Disneyland and Starbucks, in which the original service concept was the brainchild of an entrepreneur who instinctively understood the consumer. There are also innumerable examples of service organizations in which an exceptional operations manager intuitively understands how customers think and what they need. The rest of us, unfortunately, have to rely on more traditional approaches to uncovering customers’ needs.

There are several well-tested market research techniques, ...

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