How many times have you heard one or more of these comments?

“We don’t have the time or budget to conduct customer research.”

“I know our customers want this.”

“This report says our customers want this, so we need to provide them with this.”

Better yet, how many times have you heard this from the leaders of your organization?

Unfortunately, these beliefs and sentiments are more common than we would like to admit. It is easy to fall prey to the “I-know-everything” bug and find ourselves basing our design and business decisions on our long-held assumptions about our customers. When we are too close to a product or service we often put on blinders, and our biases cloud our decision making processes and better judgement.

 

Fact: People Change

While you may have understood your customers in the past, customers are people and people change. Even more important, the way that your customers interact with the world around them changes significantly over time.

Think about the last time you bought a new book.

How did you find that book? Did you look for it in a bookstore or did do your research and compare prices online? Did you order that exact piece on Amazon for a reduced price? If so, did you utilize Amazon Prime services and get free two-day shipping?

Twenty years ago, online research, shopping, and free two-day shipping were not synonymous with the book-buying experience. Over time, bookstore giants like Barnes and Noble and Borders failed to understand the impact of services that companies like Amazon provided—services that changed the way that book lovers find and purchase their books. While these companies thought they “knew” their customers, they did not anticipate that new technologies and channels would result in shifting customer preferences, needs, wants, and desires.

What you knew to be true before might not be true now. If you don’t put in the work and take the time to understand your customers in the present day (or better yet, understand your future customers and their potential needs), your assumptions and ultimate design decisions may prove to be wildly inaccurate.

 

“But wait, I know my customers because I’m a member of our key customer demographic.”

While that may be true, at the end of the day, your personal views, and ultimately your ego, don’t mean squat.

Even if you think that you might represent your key customer segment, as a designer or key decision maker you need to keep an open mind and talk to other real customers to gain the appropriate insights.

 

Fact: 99.9% of the time you will NOT be your end user.

By interviewing actual customers, you can gain direct and interpretable feedback from your target customers and ultimately recognize and overcome the biases that you and your team have introduced to the process.

That age old saying, “the customer is always right,” still stands true today. Your customers know what they want, regardless of whether or not they implicitly or explicitly state their needs and desires. Take the time to listen to your customers, ask open-ended questions, and record quantifiable feedback that can help ground your recommendations and decisions.

Not only will this allow you to create customer experiences that shine, but this will also help you to create long-lasting relationships with your customers and ensure that they remain your customers for the years to come.

 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.