It’s simple – surprise and delight them. When leading a rapidly-growing company, many entrepreneurs fail to be hyper-focused on their customers’ feedback. Immediate sales opportunities and scalability issues often take precedence. However, putting customers front and center of your product development process can be the single largest contributor to repeat business — ensuring you’re offering exactly what customers want, the way they want it.
If your company has the budget, partnering with a talented research firm can be the easiest way to incorporate customer insight into your business. If not, even the most bare bones of research techniques is better than moving forward with absolutely no insight from target customers. Either way, your company should be focused on customer feedback at the following phases:
Phase 1: Customer Wants & Needs Analysis
Prior to developing a new product, new service, or new feature, it’s critical to ensure you’re building the right thing. Spend time with target customers to find out their full set of needs. This can be done by talking with them or observing them in their natural environments to learn how they currently behave (ethnography). At this stage, you should be discovering:
- What’s the business opportunity?
- What unmet need do your customers have?
- What specific pain points could be solved? How could customers be delighted?
Phase 2: Concept Testing
Once you have solid ideas for the new product or feature, you’ll need feedback on the concepts to help refine them and validate they will meet the customer need. At this stage, it’s critical to share those concepts via either words or pictures to gauge best way to keep customers reactions. By getting feedback on multiple concepts, you can narrow down the product idea even further.
- Will your idea meet customers’ needs?
- Which concept would best drive the business forward?
- How can you further build out the concept to ensure purchase?
Phase 3: Prototype Testing
Prior to going live with your new product, get feedback from target customers on a prototype of how the product will work. Doing so will eliminate barriers to engagement and eventual adoption. At this stage, find out:
- How can you tweak the product to deliver greater value?
- How do you eliminate points of confusion or usability problems?
- What refined messaging will better position the product?
Phase 4: Benchmarking
Over time as new products and competitors come to the market, your product will need to grow in order to compete. Through quarterly, bi-annual, or annual quantitative benchmarking studies, you can measure how your product stacks up in the market — and your own customers’ satisfaction over time. By incorporating this feedback into a continuous improvement process, you’ll ensure the product consistently surprises and delights customers. Key attitudinal customer metrics to track over time include:
- Satisfaction / Net Promotor
- Brand Impression
- Purchase Consideration
- General likes/dislikes
The bottom line – get customer feedback early and often. Even the most rustic of research techniques (a few customer phone calls) is better than no insight at all. By investing continuously in customer feedback, you’ll dramatically improve your company’s bottom line by guaranteeing you built the right thing . . . and built the thing right.
Amy Buckner is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of AnswerLab, a user experience research firm in San Francisco that helps clients improve websites, software, and mobile applications. In 2009, AnswerLab was the #1 user experience research firm on the INC 500 list of fastest growing companies in America.