The choice of which customers to interview is complicated when several different groups of people can be considered "the customer." For many products, one person (the buyer) makes the buying decision and another person (the user) actually uses the product. A good approach is to gather data from the end user of the product in all situations, and in cases where other types of customers and stakeholders are clearly important, to gather data from these people as welL A customer selection matrix is useful for planning exploration of both market and cus- tomer variety. Burchill suggests that market segments be listed on the left side of the ma- trix while the different types of customers are listed across the top (Burchill et aL, 1997), as shown in Exhibit 4-5. The number of intended customer contacts is entered in each cell to indicate the depth of coverage. For industrial and commercial products, actually locating customers is usually a mat- ter of making telephone calls or sending e-maiL In developing such products within an
Identifying Customer Needs 59 EXHIBIT 4-5 Customer selection matrix for the cordless screwdriver project. Lead Users Users I Retailer or : Sales Outlet Service Centers Homeowner (occasional use) Handy person (frequent use) 0 3 5 10 I 2 i 3 Professional (heavy-duty use) 3 2 I 2 I I existing firm, a field sales force can often provide names of customers, although the team must be careful about biasing the selection of customers toward those with allegiances to a particular manufacturer. The web or a telephone directory can be used to identify names of some types of customers for some classes of products (e.g., building contractors or insurance agents). For products that are integral to a customer's job, getting someone to agree to an interview is usually simple; these customers are eager to discuss their needs. For consumer products, customers can also be located by making telephone calls or e-mail inquiries. However, arranging a set of interviews for consumer products generally re - quires more inquiries than for industrial or commereial products because the benefit of participating in an interview is less direet for these customers. The Art of Eliciting Customer Needs Data The techniques we present here are aimed primarily at interviewing end users, but these methods do apply to all of the three data-gathering modes and to all types of stakeholders. The basic approach is to be receptive to information provided by customers and to avoid confrontations or defensive posturing. Gathering needs data is very different from a sales call: the goal is to elicit an honest expression of needs, not to convince a customer of what he or she needs. In most cases customer interactions will be verbal; interviewers ask questions and the customer responds. A prepared interview guide is valuable for structuring this dialogue. Some helpful questions and prompts for use after the interviewers introduee themselves and explain the purpose of the interview are: • When and why do you use this type of product?