Don’t just hear them, LISTEN to them: Using customer insights to drive innovation
Posted by Dan Roche
on April 20th, 2012 at 10:45 am
How do Apple, Google and Facebook become leaders in their industry? The two biggest factors both lie with their customers. These companies are able to innovate and predict consumer desires and needs, but they also listen to feedback and wish lists. It is this combination of understanding what will work and accepting that there are always areas for improvement that make them successful.
Customers are increasingly more knowledgeable about products and services, and they aren't afraid to share their feedback. The key is to ask. Clients don’t only drive the market; they ultimately are the market, so it’s critical to align product development and advancements with your client base.
In the technology industry, it can be difficult to anticipate customer needs as each client uses the technology differently. Plus, with SaaS-based tools, changes and updates can be completed immediately, so regular monitoring of current trends as well as customer insight, usage and behavior patterns is essential to maintain competiveness. Companies like SalesForce are even encouraging direct innovation from its users and offering CRM app builds on its platform. After all, if you aren’t obtaining this pertinent customer data today, customers can easily switch providers tomorrow.
Here are some considerations when garnering customer insight:
Compatibility – While it would be great to cater to every customer wish, it isn’t always practical or profitable. Before asking for customer feedback, it’s important to have a full understanding of how changes to your product or service may impact security, scalability or performance. Will these functions work across a variety of platforms or operating systems? Verify that you can uphold these standards before making promises to your client(s).
User Groups/Customer Testing – Companies should always incorporate product testing as part of their development process. This will help determine if your product/service is competitive with others on the market or if changes need to be made to stand out from the crowd. The added bonus of customer testing is that you can use your budget more effectively to focus on these key areas of improvement and/or innovation.
Wish Lists – Ask your customers for their feature wish list. These requests may or may not be feasible to implement, but these “if only” statements will give your company a better handle on how your client operates and the functions that are necessary for their business.
Report Cards – In addition to wish lists, it’s important that your clients have a place to share what works and doesn’t work for them. What needs to be adjusted? What function has really helped? What feature is difficult to use? Remind clients that you are looking for honest feedback - good and bad - in order to better suit their needs. This is a great opportunity for client(s) to reflect on what functions are essential to their business and for providers to make the necessary updates.
Customer Budgets – Customers will ask for the sun and the moon, but they may only be willing to pay for one. Make sure that your clients prioritize the features and functionality that benefits their business most.
Including your customers in the decision-making process will simultaneously help your company provide the solutions wanted in the marketplace and strengthen client relationships. Ensure that all employees are asking for customer feedback because a customer-centric team is the foundation of innovation.
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