Do customer wishes really count?

One of the mantras of marketing in these Corona days is again to think in terms of the customer. What the customer wants. What he want. What he dreams. What he longs for. Millions are invested in market research, newly appointed customer touchpoints or customer centricity managers have only one goal: to find out what the customer wants. What can be wrong with that? Well: Whenever too many people say and think the same thing, I start to doubt: Is the customer's request really sacred? Is it the only yardstick by which companies should orientate themselves?


The current public discussion about the mass-processing meat industry, fuel-guzzling SUVs and plastic packaging shows the dilemma: Does the customer's wish actually consist of what the customer actually buys or what he / she expresses in surveys: Count the 80 percent who are in favor of animal welfare pronounce it - or the 85 percent who still pack the cheap meat in the shopping cart? The 95 percent who want a clean environment - or the 98 percent who do not buy their fruit in unpacked shops but packaged in the supermarket? Only the real purchase brings sales and profit - but is it also the right yardstick for entrepreneurial action?


I question that because focusing on customer requirements does not drive innovation, but blocks it. Because the customer, I can put it so hard because I experience it in myself, has absolutely no idea of ​​the future. The customer is a little creative. He doesn't think about the future. He usually only wants what he already has and can get. Years ago nobody sat in front of their typewriter and complained how nice it would be now if you had a computer with simpler keys. Nobody longed for the Internet, nobody for the self-driving car. Nobody has a 3D printer, nobody has a mobile phone, nobody Netflix, nobody drones or a delivery service from REWE or EDEKA. Only when it was there did we say: Oh yes, very nice. Why didn't we think of that earlier?


The customer request, our mantra carved in stone, also in medium-sized companies, is a very stationary quantity. The customer's request does not release any innovation. He cemented the present. The current situation can withstand small adjusting screws on the product, on marketing and sales - but today's static view does not open the door to radical innovations, inventions, moonshots or new relevant ideas. But if the customer himself cannot imagine the future, someone else has to do it for him - the company, the manufacturer himself. Companies that have a future DNA, who have to see themselves as creators, as visionaries of the future. Which always have to show the customer specifically how shopping, traveling, work, mobility, upbringing, learning can go in 5 or 10 years. Generate enough imagination to build an amusement park of the future for the customer with attractions he has never seen before. A dream cabinet of the really new. The new, built on the values ​​of the present - sustainability, justice, fairness, empathy, togetherness.


With their disruptive ideas, the global players in Silicon Valley have shown us how receptive customers are to the new. How visions can change markets in just a few years. The drivers are the companies and their charismatic leaders. Anyone who only produces what the customer buys today, who makes the statistically ascertained customer request the maxim of his offer, will lose the competition for the future. However, those who are able to think beyond the customer's wishes have the best chance of being one of the winners of the future.

Dr. Klaus-Ulrich Moeller - August 24, 2020

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