Digital Services


The benefits of project and process framework can be applied to every part of existence.


Ask, Want, Need: Understanding Client Requirements


In our eagerness to please clients, we sometimes rush to present a solution before fully understanding what the client wants. This creates more confusion and a disappointing client experience.

Even though I've been working in client support for over five years, I found myself making this mistake in a major way last month:

One of my clients requested a major adjustment to her database structure and I assumed I knew what she meant. I was eager to please since a bug had effected her work in the previous week and I felt that a quick turnaround on this project would get us back in her good graces. Instead, when I emailed back with the completed project, she let me know I had done the adjustments on the wrong entity. If I had paused for five seconds(!) and sent one clarifying email, I could have saved both of us annoyance, embarrassment, and lost time.

Ask Want Need

Usually I am more methodical when approaching client requests and support tickets. One framework I find works very well is the "ask want need" approach, which is as follows:

  1. Ask: What is the client actually asking for?
  2. Want: What does the client want?
  3. Need: What does the client actually need?

Here's an example ticket we can apply this model to:

"Can your software sync with my phone to log text messages? I usually text with our younger clients and want to record those conversations."

Ask: The client wants to know if our software offer text message importing.

Want: The client wants to import text messages in the same way she imports emails.

Need: The client needs a way to easily add text message conversations to records.

Now that I understand the need, I can propose a solution. This could be in the form of a "yes" with a link to a help guide, a work around, or I could initiate a conversation about a customized solution for her agency if this is a major part of their work.

Try the "ask want need" approach during your next client meeting, or even a staff meeting. Making sure you can answer these three questions will put you on the path to aligning with your clients and delivering a delightful experience and quality product.