assessment repertoire. We often claim that customers don't know what they want, and then we expect them to tell us anyway. But does it make sense to expect customers to select from among the multitude of options when they don't even know what those options are? Should we expect them to describe their needs articulately when they may not excel at the language of description? Is it wise to expect them to relate every essential detail, when the details they notice are not the ones we need? And does it make sense to assume that we and they (or any two of us, for that matter) attribute the same meaning to the words we use? After all, my big suitcase might be pretty small by your standards.
Therefore, instead of asking customers what they want in a transaction or report or screen layout, and expecting them to provide precise specifications, it might generate more useful information to ask, "Which of these pictures (or options, formats, functions, designs, layouts, or whatever) is closest to what you want? And how does what you want differ?"
Taking this approach would give customers an inkling of the possibilities. It would help them be more precise. And it would ensure that we're all speaking the same language. Or rather, pointing to the same picture, thereby minimizing dependence on ambiguity-tainted words.
I became convinced of the value of this approach when the next flight arrived from Point B. As luggage in every imaginable size, shape, and color emerged on the carousel, the Agent in Charge of Retrieving Luggage for Rerouted Passengers recognized my suitcase and boot bag immediately.
Ever since, I've been a fan of the visual approach to identifying needs (and finding lost luggage).