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First things first, right?

So, you have a great idea for a new service/app/whatever – let’s call it a ‘product’. What is the most important element to begin development with?

Why do I think that is the correct answer? Because that is where your idea connects with the actual customer, on the customer’s terms. It requires you to think about how and when the customer would use your product – and working through this is likely to get you thinking about why they would use it as well.

The most important thing in the world is people. This is obvious but often seems to be forgotten in a focus on material wealth. But without people, there would be no wealth; without customers, you do not have a business. If an app is listed on the app store and no-one downloads it, is it still an app?

Understanding (or at least having a theory about) how your product will fit into your customers’ lives will make a big difference to the sustained use of your product. Branding, marketing and distribution will all affect the rate of initial uptake but if the product does not fit the customers’s lives, meet their needs and expectations, they will not continue to use it unless they have no real choice (in which case, they are prisoners and will have a very dysfunctional relationship with you/your product).

I think the key concept here is empathy – understanding what it is like to be in the customer’s shoes when they are using your product. Research has found that both satisfaction and loyalty increase when you build empathic relationships with customers. The experience of being treated without empathy, being objectified, varies from mildly unpleasant to traumatic, depending on the nature of the relationship. But it is never a compelling experience.

Think about customers as people, make a serious effort understand their perspective and needs, and you will be well on the way to the sustained success of  your product. Treating customers as people is good for business.

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