Do Customers Know What They Want?

Steve Jobs, a prominent figure in technology, and the man who revolutionized the consumer electronics industry, had something to say about his customers – the customers who brought the products of his company, Apple, worth a trillion dollar fortune. He said, “Customers don’t know what they want until we show them.” Jobs and his company Apple are actually examples of a successful and impactful business. As Jobs himself said about extraordinary achievement, they were able to “invent the future.” It is clever and wise to be able to do this.
He was quite confident that he knew what the future held. That must be how he ended up claiming this. Now, the claim seems prescient and clever. In fact, it is. No one thought computers, which were once a feature of only big universities and government research institutes, would end up at the hands of billions of people with an efficiency and capacity many times better.

No one imagined we would operate our computers with a device so delicate as a mouse, on a screen as fancy as a television set. No one predicted that we would use our fingers not to push the boring buttons of our phone but to tap, swipe, and pinch a screen as we would do to our baby’s face. That is how Jobs showed us what we wanted.
But I am wary of this claim. It seems to take away the most important authority we should give customers. Customers should have the first and in fact the final say. It is very common that businesses respond very wrongly to customers needs.

It can be summarized in one statement. “Customers asked for x, they built y, which was the answer to z.” It seems a zero-sum game. It is therefore very important that we should give customers the biggest stake in our business. Let’s reflect on some ideas about this and Jobs’s claim.

Jobs said customers don’t actually know what they want. He got that wrong. It would be very wrong to say a company knows their product more than their customers do. This is the worst sin to commit. Customers know products and services very well. They do not just appreciate and admire them but also project their wishes and imaginations onto products. Customers know what they want and we should listen to them.

Jobs also said we are the leaders and we show customers something they fancy. He got that right. If we are good leaders, we respond to customers’ needs. We show them their dream product, a life saver and a close friend. They consider the product an assistant and company. We are the experts and we are able to give our customers the product and service they are going to love.

Customers are in fact the owners and decision-makers, according to Jobs. He got that wrong. Someone may build a product for themselves. That is perfectly okay, because there are lots of people who share the same problems and aspirations. A business needs to make profit. What product should a company build then? One that only a certain individual will use or one that billions of people adore?

Finally, Jobs stated that we are the servers and fulfillers of our customers’ wishes. He got that right. We are in business and it is our job to fulfill our customers wishes. It is our passion to give customers products and services that makes their life amazing. We did what we did and continue to do what we do because of our customers.

8th Year • Jan.16 – Feb.15 2019 • No. 70


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