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What You Really, Really Want?

Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously told his students “People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole!” This powerfully illustrates that the underlying customer need is in fact separate and distinct from the intermediate solutions people actually use to address those needs.

With all the attention and angst around understanding and enabling the “customer journey” or "path to purchase", do we really know what is at the end of that journey in the eyes of the customer? In the eyes of the seller it is often the sale itself (and maybe some post-sales support and nurturing). In the eyes of the customer, it is not the drill but the hole, and maybe not the hole but the shelving he is erecting, and then really not just the shelving, but the big TV that has to be installed there for his Superbowl Sunday party!

I went into a large DIY center recently looking for circular saw blades to install some flooring. An associate asked me what I was looking for and helpfully showed me to the blades section. When I went in to Lumber Liquidators looking for flooring, the associate asked me first about my project. Then, as well as showing me flooring, he also gave me advice about the blades I need to cut various types of laminate or hardwood flooring. The second associate got much closer to my real needs and what was of value to me, and thereby provided the best customer experience.

What is the bottom line? – You cannot work too hard at understanding the real end goal of your consumer. Whether this intimacy is developed through a trusted advisor relationship through social media, or face-to-face in a store, a superior customer experience will depend on that level of communication being established.

With apologies to the Spice Girls, and those too young to remember .....

Photo Source: The Guardian

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