Product Features: How to Create Features For Customer Needs [With Examples]

Awad M

Posted on: May 26, 2019

Ever found yourself asking why isn't my product as big a hit as I expected?

What am I missing?

Well your product features could be the reason.

By the end of this article you will know how to:

  • Find customer needs that present the highest business opportunity
  • Decide the core features of your product for testing
  • Determine a product value proposition that will resonate with customers

Let's dive in!

How Customer Needs Drive Your Product Features

Different customers have different needs.

But that's not all:

Different customers will place different levels of importance on those needs too.

So question is:

How do you create a product that solves consumers most important needs?

By following the right product development steps.

You can be strategic in defining:

  • The importance of the need to your customer
  • How satisfied they are by the solutions to those needs
  • Which needs have higher potential to create customer value

And the rewards can be huge.

Customer Needs - Importance vs Satisfaction

Lets look at Dan Olsen’s simple framework to do this.

In his book,
The Lean Product Playbook, Dan Olsen explains his brilliant framework for looking at the importance of a customer need versus customer satisfaction with existing solutions.

Think of it as a chart like this:

Product development process importance vs satisfaction customer needs

Let's break down this chart a little further so it's all clear.

When assessing customer needs, you’ll want to avoid the bottom half.

Low Importance customer needs = Low value to the customer, regardless of how satisfied they are with a given solution.

The top right section includes high importance needs for which customers are very satisfied with available solutions.

For example:

Lets say, customers have an urgent need to organize large amounts of data on spreadsheets and retrieve it quickly.

The guys at Microsoft addressed this need and created a solution that customers were highly satisfied with for decades.

Microsoft Excel.

Product development process_microsoft excel

The high satisfaction and market adoption puts Excel in the top right corner and means that not many could compete with it.

It dominated the market.

Of course, the presence of a dominant player does not mean that nobody can ever compete.

The importance of customer needs change over time and new needs are be born as explained by this article from
CMO.

That's why we now have new competitors to this market such as
Google Sheets and Coda.

Coda for doc makers

They are addressing a new need for today's business environment.

Which is:

Being able to collaborate and share docs and spreadsheets in real-time with teams.

Collaboration and sharing in real time addresses deeper needs such as convenience, efficiency and reliability.

These were high importance needs that were unmet for the customer - even if customers hadn't realised it yet or technology didn't allow it.

As a result:

They were in the top left corner - high importance needs with low satisfaction levels.

THIS is the quadrant that represents the highest opportunity needs for you to target.

You start there and eventually move into the top right as customer satisfaction increases with your offering.

How To Create Your Importance Vs Satisfaction Chart For Product Features

Here’s how to start:

  • List all the problems that your customers are experiencing - this could be based on what you uncovered from your customer discovery interviews, surveys you conducted or even your own problem hypotheses

    (Note: Since we are at product stage, the assumption is that you've already done your Customer Discovery and that both your problem and customer hypotheses are confirmed)
  • Dig into the problem to uncover the "hidden needs" your customers have. Keith Goffins article from Stuttgart Institute of Management explains this further.
  • Add these problems and corresponding needs to each quadrant based on importance and how satisfied customers are with the solutions
  • List all alternative solutions that your customers have, whether direct or indirect and the needs they are addressing
  • Add those solutions along with your existing solution in the relevant quadrants on the chart

Careem as an Example For Product Features

The above Importance vs Satisfaction exercise helps you do 3 important things for your product features:

  • Find where your product sits in the chart compared to your competitors
  • Determine which customer needs present higher potential opportunities for customer value
  • Compare the different needs that your product solves. If your product addresses several needs, you will be able to compare which needs customers are satisfied with and which have the potential for improvement

An example will help make this clearer.

Let's look at this in action for a massive startup like Careem who were acquired by Uber for $3.1 Billion.

Note: Being a multi-sided platform business, this process can be done for both the user side (i.e. riders) and the supply side (i.e. drivers).

Product development example_Careem

Disclaimer: this is just an example of the user side needs and Careem did not provide this info​​​​​

The core need is to be driven from point A to point B.

Taxi's and other forms of public transport were the existing solutions that satisfied this need for transport.

And Careem also satisfies this core need.

So they both fall in the high importance-high satisfaction quadrant in the top right box.

However, the crucial factor is that:

Careem successfully identified other under-served customer needs i.e. Top left box

Product development process - underserved customer needs

They Identified Problems Such as:

  • Waiting for taxis in the heat
  • Hassle with payments and haggling
  • Unsafe driving
  • Miscommunication with drivers
  • Drivers not knowing route to destination
  • Any many more

These Problems “Ladder up” Into High Importance Hidden Needs Such as:

  • Reliability
  • Convenience
  • Safety
  • Affordability

Careem Then Addressed Each Higher Need With Features/Solutions Such As:

  • Online ride ordering - Convenience
  • Automatic online payment and pre-defined ride cost - Convenience/Affordability
  • Driver rating and information - Safety/Comfort
  • Real time driver location - Reliability
  • Estimated arrival time - Reliability

Bonus Material

No need to spend time building a similar template. It's already done for you!
Click Here to get your ready to use Importance vs Satisfaction Template so you can do the same right away.

Pretty cool, right?

Great.

Now you know how to build a solid framework of the most important needs to address based on customer discussions.

What next?

It’s time to figure out which feature(s) will form the core of your product and your value proposition.

Determine Your Core Product Features For Product Development

Another way to assess customer needs is to use the Kano Model.

In short:

It's a model that will help you categorise your product benefits (and in turn product features) into 3 main sections:

  • Must Haves: the core needs that if not satisfied will mean the product will not even be considered by customers
  • Performance benefits: the improved benefits that your product provides to address needs
  • Delighters: the unexpected benefits that exceed customer expectations and result in very high satisfaction

To create successful new products, a company must understand this hierarchy of needs.

Take a look at Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs proposed in his 1943 paper "A theory of Human Motivation":

Product development process - customer needs

You'll notice that the needs at the top of the pyramid such as self-actualization and esteem are of little importance if the core physiological needs and safety at the bottom are not met.

In the same way:

Providing a Performance improvement is pointless if Must Have needs are not solved.

And providing a Delighter is of little effect without Performance benefits.

Know how you always hear people say "avoid feature creep and focus on core features"?

This is how you do it.

This model helps define your highest opportunity features for your MVP rather than overfilling your product.

Focus on the core features is the key.

Let’s imagine how this would look like again for Careem:

Product development examples-Careem Kano model

​Now:

Compare this with their early value proposition:

Product development examples - Careem Value Proposition

So what does this mean for you?

Fill out the information for your competitors and your product.

The performance benefits that you choose will be based on the results from your importance vs satisfaction chart above.

This will increase your clarity on the product features to focus on.

Furthermore, it will be the basis of your value proposition and how you differentiate yourself from competitors.

Want to be even more strategic?

You already know that competitors will try to respond to your product. So let's plan for that.

Create the above table and include your expected future changes as well as that of competitors.

Like this:

Product Life Cycle

There you have it:

You've figured out the most important needs to solve for customers and the product features to do it.

This preparation helps to deeply understand the customer problems and decide how best to proceed with product development.

Next step:

Brainstorm all the different ways your product can solve those needs using technology, automation and convenience.

Conclusion

Product features can be one of the reasons that can stop your product from growing the way you'd expected.

But as frustrating as it seems it can be solved.

Following the process through customer discovery and user interviews to understand what is most important to your customers.

Then developing your feature set around that data will result in a tailor made solution for customers.

It's a matter of being obsessed with creating value for your customers.

We all know that's the priority.

Now, we all need to execute.

Leave a comment below on how you determined your core product features.

Join 6000+ Founders & Entrepreneurs

A few goodies

Leave a Comment: