Ask your customers!
This is a little story about how missing customer feedback can take all value from something that seems extemely valuable at first sight. It is a story about how to provide no value at all with a present that should have excitied your customer.
Just recently I started at Magine in Stockholm. It's a cool company and one of the first things I could do was choosing my technical equipment, meaning laptop and phone. So I told the person who was responsible for ordering (let's call her "Lisa") that I'd like to have a MacBook Pro 15", 2.3 GHz and 512 GB and the new iPhone 5s in silver with 64GB of storage.
Yesterday Lisa brought "my equipment" to me. Yeay, presents! But what is that? Why is that a MacBook Air? Ok, doesn't matter, if the screen size is 15"... ... ... Wait, what?? Why is it 13"? Ok, at least I got the 5s and a SIM card. Later at home: WHAT? 16 GB? Are you serious?? How can I store all what I queeze to my current phone (32GB) to that tiny storage? Oh, and it's grey instead of silver. Not important but interesting.
What happened? Lisa was not aware of what my priorities were (at all). She asked me to choose. Then she ordered something else after talking to someone deciding that the other equipment was just fine. Who actually had no knowledge at all about me or my preferences. With currently having an 11" MacBook Air at my disposal, the 13" MacBook is actually an improvement. Which doesn't really make me happy as soon as I start automating things and need a bigger screen. But the 5s, as recent as it might be and as high a geek factor it has, does not provide any value to me. Not at all.
Why does such a toy, a perfectly reasonable device which so many like to have, not provide any value to me? My current phone is an iPhone 4. No "4s". Just a four. It is slow. It is not recent and probably fairly uncool. But I have my whole digital life on it. musik, videos, photos, available for me at any time. The 5s is much faster. Probably it provides batteries that last longer. I lived with an edge connection for the past 2 years because I chose that speed is not as important to me as battery life is. I know that being able to adjust my music to my current mood, which changes a lot, is more important to me than speed or the latest geek toy. I will stick to my 32GB outdated old phone until I get something at least equally capable of providing value.
What did I learn from this?
Customer feedback is important.
You can ruin the latest hype by not taking customer's preferences under consideration. If any of the people involved had checked back with me what was actually important to me, I would now be very happy with a 64GB phone and a 15" inch laptop of a type I don't care about. With ignoring me as a customer we bought things that I probably won't use.
Asking your customer about their wishes and then not communicating with them that you can't deliver is extremely frustrating for your customer.
Another thing that you should take under consideration is where your customer comes from or what his/her current state is.
Without the knowledge of the customer's current state you miss valuable information about what "improvement" means to them.
As I have worked as agile coach I am aware that the same applies to teams: If you go to a team as a coach and change anything without knowing what value it provides to the team, you will most likely fail.