The Doorknob Phenomenon … latent needs and voice-of-the-customer

During a voice-of-the-customer interview, I ask a powerful question. It will elicit a prospective customer’s doorknob answer. In the answer the customer discloses valuable but, until now, hidden information.

The latent need that emerges can help my client’s product concept become a product success.

Doorknob Phenomenon

Clinical physicians originated the term. It’s the unexpected comment a patient makes when they are leaving the examining room. As they grab the doorknob to exit, the patient stops. And then, out of the blue, provides crucial information to the doctor.

Eliciting a Doorknob Comment in a Voice-of-the-Customer Interview

At the doorknob, a patient can either reveal this hidden information or leave it unsaid. A similar choice occurs at the end of a voice-of-the-customer interview. By trial and error I developed an effective doorknob question. It helps a customer reveal latent needs.

I say, ”Thank you for the time you’ve spent answering my questions. You’ve helped me understand what my client’s product concept needs. Was there a question I should have asked you but, didn’t know enough to ask?”

And then, the interview continues for 5 – 10 minutes. The respondent discloses why solving their latent need problem is important. Often they say —“I know you can’t tell me who your client is but, as soon as report is finished, ask them to contact me ASAP.”

For most latent needs elicited, my clients have the capability to solve the problem and challenge their competitors. In one case, 4 years after launch of their solution, a client’s market share jumped from 15% to 45%. The solution’s profit margin rose to 95%.

So build your skills in elicitation, and remember to ask the doorknob question.