Asking customers what they want cannot be taken too literally. Steve Martin writes on HBR Blog
So when it comes to getting to the heart of what actually drives decisions and behaviors, a message emerges that at first glance appears counter-intuitive: Stop listening to your customers.
The advice is to
Ask fewer questions about what people will do and instead set up small field tests and controlled studies that observe what they actually do.
Any market research professional would scoff at taking just the customer’s voice as the sole indicator of customer preferences. All serious customer research projects are really directed at discovering the goals, the motivations and the decisions that customers take when they are evaluating products for purchase.
How do customers make purchase decisions? Discover those Decisions First.
Keeping that basic research objective in mind, the Decision Discovery process needs to pick a technique or techniques. These can range from actual interviews, surveys and panel discussions – all the way to sophisticated behavior observations and Big Data crunching through advanced Analytics. After all, what the customer does is being recorded constantly in a myriad of data-rich applications and devices.
So, listening to the customer is not bad in itself, the problem is when this is not guided by an overall experiment design.