Sometimes, in our zeal to anticipate our customers’ needs, we forget to ask what they prefer.
The notion of anticipating customer needs has been around for some time. And… certainly it makes sense when it comes to product development. Steve Jobs was famous for anticipating customer needs; knowing that we often don’t know what we are going to want next, best to give it to us and let us try it out. While it isn’t easy to anticipate customer product preferences, when we do it successfully, awesome innovations enter our society.
I wonder though, if we have taken this notion of anticipating needs beyond where it was intended, i.e. toward anticipating (guessing) preferences. I keep learning that when I guess at what someone wants, I am often wrong. Here are some small examples:
- I believe the customer I meet with regularly wants to meet in the morning, so I keep scheduling morning meetings. It turns out, she would prefer afternoons and thinks I am only available in the mornings.
- I believe a customer has referred someone to me because they expect me to include them in my vendor search. But instead, he is indifferent, and just providing a referral in case I need one.
- Because my service provider is organized and intentional, I assume she is inflexible and unwilling to adapt to my scheduling preferences.
In short, ask for what you want and ask them what they want; the answer may surprise you.