Priceline's Jeff Hoffman: The Best Way to Design New Products and Services

Last Updated May 5, 2011 7:19 PM EDT

Jeff Hoffman was a founder and CEO in the Priceline.com family of companies, where he helped develop business strategy, technology, and brand strategy for several of the Priceline companies, from launch through IPO. Currently he is a partner at ColorJar, a Chicago-based venture accelerator that helps entrepreneurs turn great ideas into profitable companies.
"This may surprise you, but nothing good ever came from your conference room. You know why? Because too many companies try to build their products and services from the inside out. From their conference room out to the customer. But not the best companies. The best companies design their products from the customer in. You can sit for days inside your own offices and take your best guess at exactly what your customers want, what they need, and what they value. Or you can do something really radical -- you can ask them.

Our customers always told us they felt like they designed our products themselves. And that's because they did. We took our best shot at a starting point for product needs and functionality, but then we took that outline directly to our customers and let them tell us what they wanted and needed.

One of the most successful programs I ever implemented as a CEO was something I called "A Day in the Life." I called some of our customers and asked them if some of our employees could spend a day shadowing, not speaking, just taking notes about what a day in the life of our customers was like. And the results were amazing. We quickly learned what features they really valued, and what functions we overestimated. Our customers really did design our products. Yours should too."

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