Manufacturers must understand customer needs

28th of September 2012 Article by Markus Asch
Manufacturers must understand customer needs

Markus Asch, vice chairman of the management board at cleaning equipment manufacturer Kärcher and president of EUnited Cleaning, writes his latest blog for the ECJ website. He discusses why manufacturers must work harder to understand their customers' needs before developing new products.

In economically difficult times, the companies that hold their ground are those that best know their customers and what they need and want. These companies react fastest when customer requirements change and are the first to offer new products to meet those requirements.

That is especially important today when quality is no longer a genuine hygiene factor when drawing distinctions between products.

Good ideas for new products are not gleaned from TV or newspapers or from creativity or trend workshops. Nor is it sufficient to gather ideas for products at in-house brainstorming sessions and to implement those ideas.

That is because customers themselves are best acquainted with their own requirements and needs and observing their activities. They often use machines very intensively so they are familiar with typical application problems and demands and with their own technical capabilities.

The manufacturers' job is to translate this information into products and to direct their entire attention to the results that customers achieve with those products.

Admittedly, that is easier said than done. In today's rapidly changing world, customers' expectations are changing faster than ever before. So companies must try to see inside the customer as their best source of information about his or her wishes and dreams, even if they are not specifically addressed. That does not mean influencing the customer so that he or she is motivated to buy.

In any case, that is no longer possible now that we are mature and well informed consumers. Nor is it a case of fulfilling every individual customer wish and designing only customised products. The goal is to recognise customers' wishes and to derive measures for product development from them.

In our industry, especially, detailed knowledge of applications is of elementary importance. It is not essential for a car salesman, for instance, to know every detail of his customer's job. It is a different matter with a cleaning technology salesman.

He must know at least enough about a baker's profession to advise his customer competently on the elimination of carcinogenic flour dusts. He has to know how difficult it is to clean non-slip tiles in butchers' shops and to be aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of using the wrong high pressure temperature to wash a motor. The list could be continued ad infinitum.

Only someone who studies his customer's needs and problems in depth will be able to point to a solution that not only delivers the best possible optical cleanliness economically, but also contributes toward value preservation and to the care and upkeep of the object or premises cleaned, while of course protecting the people who live and work in or near them.

why manufacturers must work harder to understand their customers' needs before developing new products.

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