The Goal: Getting inside the customer’s head

This post is written by Debbie Watkins, SBI Resident Adviser for the bKash project in Bangladesh.

Humans have a propensity to label people, ideas or things based on our initial opinions of them. Ori and Ron Brafman, the authors of “Sway – the irresistible pull of irrational behaviour” term this the “diagnosis bias,” and it includes our inability to reconsider those initial value judgments once we’ve made them. Once a person is given a label (and even indirectly, a diagnosis), it’s hard for people to see other people in a way that isn’t biased by that label.

Here are some labels to think about: “Low income”. “Disadvantaged”. “Unbanked”. Typical biased diagnoses include “stupid” (a real conversation I have had with someone I worked with in the past was centred around their view that “if poor people were clever, they wouldn’t be poor, would they?”). The truth of course is generally entirely different – although often lacking in formal education, the “street savviness” of your typical ADC prospective client, and especially their ability to work out whether a new offering is a good deal for them, is pretty high…

Photo credit: Shadowbend Studios

The only way to be sure that your planned ADC offering will be embraced by the people you’re planning to offer it to is to get inside their heads. You need to understand their hopes (so you can help them be realised), their fears (in order to quell them) and their challenges (in order to overcome them). Once you have an offering that can meet these three basic needs (and you’re able to articulate it – but more of that another time), you know you have a value proposition.

The only way to get inside their heads is to get out there and talk to them. As we all know, you need to talk to a lot of people, and to ask them very neutral and non-leading questions, and then to see the patterns of what they’re saying. The big problem with this is – being neutral. You WANT this to succeed. You WANT people to want your great idea. (And you perhaps WANT them, just a little bit, to not be smart enough to decide that your offering has no distinct advantages over the informal/illegal channel they’re currently using).  And because you want this, you (often inadvertently) structure or phrase the questions you’re asking in a leading way, making it almost a selling exercise. It’s easy to make people give you almost any answer you want, if you ask it in a certain way. So the first part of “meeting the customer need” is to be true to yourself.

Next in this series:  Getting research data that speaks to you


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