Understanding Customer Requirements


David Ridley

(Header photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash)

The most successful businesses are customer focused. They give their customers what they want and need. They give them quality.

One of my favourite definitions of quality is simply:

conformance to requirements“—Philip Crosby

In quality management, quality doesn’t mean how good something is—it means you meet the requirements of the product, service and customer.

You must define customer requirements to achieve quality. 

You can’t assume that you know what the customer wants, and sometimes, you can’t assume they they know what they want either! What the customer wants and what they actually need can be different.

Only when you truly understand your customer will you be able to help them with their needs, their real requirements.

There are many ways to explore customer requirements, here are some suggestions.

1. Talk to your customers

—Speak to your existing and potential customers. Find out what they really value, and what they don’t! 

You’ll be surprised what they say. Things that you thought were important might not be, and things that you didn’t think matter might be key to your customers.

Remember to find out the underlying reasons so you can determine what they really need. This is especially important when it comes to product and service innovations—the customer might not even know some options exist, or could exist! 

2. Discuss with your team

Facilitate a session with your team. Discuss what they think your customers want and need.

Encourage all suggestions from a diverse team. You’ll generate ideas that might have been previously overlooked.

The added benefit with this exercise is that it brings everyone towards a value focused culture and checks that everyone is on the same page.

3. Consider what you value in similar products or services

Do you use similar products or services? Think about what you like and what you don’t like about them. Include the full customer journey. 

For example:

  •  if you run a café, go to other cafés. Notice everything from the approach to the café to when you leave
  • if you manufacture products, pay attention when you use other products. Notice the packaging and information, think about why did you really bought it (emotionally and logically), how easy is it to use and maintain, etc.

4. Study your customer complaints

If you have any customer complaints or if you can  remember any informal comments, review them.

Pick out any trends that might suggest items that you can include in your requirements to remove the issues.

5. Collect feedback

It’s good practice to collect feedback. For example, you could conduct a survey or provide feedback forms.

Reviewing your feedback will give you insights into what your customers want.

6. Analyse competitors

Study how competitors market their products and services. What features and benefits do they promote?

You can also look at competitors reviews. What do their customers complain about that you can solve, or, what do their customers love that you might have missed?

7. Perform market research

You could look into market trends and review consumer behaviours. 

You could look into how, when, where and why customers use your products and services. 

8. Shop your own business

Experience what your customers experience.

Call your store, use your website, order a product, etc. Note your experiences and put yourself in the mind of your customer as they go through the journey of using your products and services.

Closing thoughts

Only when you understand your customers can you ensure you meet their requirements.

By understanding your customers in depth, you’ll also have greater insight into what to market about your products or services to appeal to your customers.

When you define your product and service requirements you also need  to considering other areas such as innovations in your products and services that the customer may not be aware of yet, as well as other areas such as applicable standards and legislation.

A bonus of going through this process is that it demonstrates customer focus which can help if you want to get a certified quality management system to ISO 9001 standards.

Get support from Ridley & Company

Ridley & Company are experienced in helping clients understand their customers and in defining requirements that can be incorporated into business systems, products and services. .

Contact us to see how we can help you to improve the way you serve your customers and be more competitive.