Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
Kevin Stirtz, Author of ‘More Loyal Customers’
The future for software companies lies in striking a delicate balance between product focus and customer focus so that customers are included in the decision making process from the very beginning and not just in hindsight.
Successful businesses put the customer first
Customer-centric development is based on performing extensive market research, and then finding and implementing solutions that meets customer needs. Successful businesses first start with a high quality product or service that is born out of understanding and respecting the customer’s need and interests and then follow it up by providing an amazing customer support experience that is focused on delighting the customer. The whole process of customer focus should be a close loop that includes design, engineering as well as manufacturing.
Customer-centric product development conveys the following line of thinking:
• What do customers want rather than what I want to give to them?
• Am I continuously testing my Proof of Concept for customer happiness?
• Am I designing operations around customer needs?
• Am I providing my customers an avenue to share their feedback?
• Am I harnessing their feedback to improve my product and make it more appealing to my customer?
• Am I “pushing” the idea of my product to them instead of “pulling” or eliciting requirements from prospects and customers?
Amazon widely uses an approach called ‘working backwards’, where they initiate a process of getting feedback from multiple sources, including retail customers, on a finished product. They do this in multiple iterations and then apply the data to the final product design and development process. It proves way more cost effective to go through these iterations in the pre-production phase rather than after the development process has already begun.
The Case for Product-Centric Development
While, customer-centric development is critical, product focus should not be ignored either. Focusing on a product and the customer at the same time may seem like a trap, but successful software businesses know how to hack into implementing both these focuses to create highly successful products.
Software companies can benefit from being product-centric as well as customer centric as long as they still give speed of delivery and time due importance. Savvy businesses don’t focus on just creating the best, most innovative product in the market; they work hard to create the best solution for their customer.
Apple is a magnificent example of a top-notch blend of product-centric as well as customer-centric development. Apple focuses very keenly on creating the best product and is constantly making newer products that also tend to cannibalize their own existing products. At the same time, Apple also enforces a laser focus on the customer and attempts to predict his/her needs even before they are really aware of it themselves.The essence of the strategy can be summed up into delighting the customer by providing high quality products and converting them into lifelong users and even promoters of the product.
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