From 1873 until 1978 the Holland America Line (HAL) was operating a trans Atlantic connection which played a big part in migrations to the Americas. During the first 25 years the company carried 400,000 people from Europe to the Americas.
At the start of the Second World War, HAL had 25 ships; at the end of the war only nine remained. During the war the Nieuw Amsterdam sailed half a million miles transporting 400,000 military personnel. After the war, the cruise line was instrumental in transporting a massive wave of immigrants from the Netherlands to Canada and elsewhere.
However, in the 1960s air travel took off and the question is if the HAL actually was aware of how their future would look like. Did they look at what the customer actually wanted? Was the customer interested in traveling by ship? Or was the customer more interested in the destination?
The company still operated the connection until 1978, but by that time travelling by air was more in favour than by ship.
Fortunately, the company found a new market: instead of getting people from A to B, the travel itself is not the destination.
The lesson that we can learn is that always keep an eye on the needs and demands of the customer. Asking that question might not give the expected answer. Customer might have ideas what they want, but what is important is to translate that into a solution they actually want.
Sometimes the given answer is not telling the full story. If the HAL would ask their customers what they wanted, they might have answered: faster boats. But why do they would want faster boats? To get to the destination quicker? To expierence the speed itself?
If the HAL focussed more on their customers, we might now have the HAL as an airline company. Instead in 1989 the company was taken over by Carnival.