Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What to Ask

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What to Ask

How to Learn What Customers Need but Don’t Tell You

Matt Holt Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Ask the right questions to reveal real customer needs.

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Eloquent
  • Insider's Take


Every year, companies spend millions of dollars figuring out what their customers want and how to capitalize on those insights. Unfortunately, many factors inhibit this process, such as bosses sticking to old beliefs, employees focusing on costs over customers or too much data overwhelming researchers. Luckily, behavioral economics expert Andrea Belk Olson offers an illuminating guide on how to get to the customer’s heart. She teaches you how critical thinking turns data into insights, how to analyze influencing behaviors and how to monetize solutions.


Companies collect consumer data but struggle to gain actionable insights.

In 1999, Sony released a yellow Walkman after receiving huge amounts of positive feedback during focus groups. Unfortunately, when the music player hit the market, everyone bought the original black ones instead of the yellow. This left Sony, like many other consumer companies, wondering why their customers said one thing but did not follow through.

The issue revolves around the way companies deal with data. Often, they put too much focus on collecting it, and not enough energy into pulling valuable insights out of the data that show what customers really need. For instance, companies might only focus on the net promoter score – in which customers rate how likely they are to recommend products – but this number doesn’t tell companies why customers want to promote the product.

Companies view the time and amount of research it takes to find the “why” behind customer responses as daunting because it often involves hours of one-on-one interviewing. They would rather focus on the customer input that validates...

About the Author

Andrea Belk Olson teaches executives the art and science of brand differentiation through understanding customer behavior. She is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur Magazine and Chief Executive Magazine. 

Comment on this summary