It takes hours of hard work to get a product to market, and after putting in long hours and attending far too many meetings, product managers want to know customers will connect with a new release. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen–not every product succeeds. One of the best ways to ensure you don’t launch a product that flops is to work customer feedback into your development process early on.
From the time your team first conceptualizes an idea, it’s important to start getting input from customers. Through that input, you’ll be able to release your product confidently into the world. Throughout the development lifecycle, there are opportunities you’re likely missing to connect with your customers and gain feedback.
If your brand has been around for a while, you likely have an existing community of supporters and loyalists. Reach out to those supporters for their input whenever you have a new product. You can set up these “idea communities” on your website or social networks and invite people to join throughout the year. By having this community already in place, you’ll have a group that is not only willing to give feedback when asked, but also eager to do so.
One example of an extremely strong user forum is Apple’s Support Communities. At any time, Apple staff can browse through these forums and read customer feedback on its products. Additionally, customers can help other customers troubleshoot problems and learn more about features they may not have realized existed on their devices.
Focus groups have long been a part of the product development process. However, in recent years product developers have refined the way they approach focus groups. As Metric Lab’s Demetrius Madrigal and Brian McClain point out, focus group findings shouldn’t be the sole source of your design and development decisions.
A variety of factors go into arriving at results from a focus group. Madrigal and McClain advise recruiting participants from a wide variety of backgrounds. Even then, your results can be affected by participant bias or inadequacies. For that reason, it’s important to use focus groups as only part of your decision-making process. Feedback from these groups is often best put toward making high-level product decisions rather than specific, tactical ones.
Almost every brand today has a social media presence. If you’re merely using that presence to announce new product releases, you’re missing a valuable opportunity. Your social media channels offer a built-in audience for your ideas and by asking for feedback, you’ll make your customers feel as though they were a part of the development process. This increases their brand loyalty and strengthens your customer base for the product when it arrives in stores.
As you have questions about your product, run them by customers on social media. An ice cream shop trying to choose between four new flavors could post a quiz with four options and see which one gets the most votes. If one option gets an overwhelming number of responses, the shop has insight into which one will resonate most with customers.
Websites and Apps
Every business that sells products or services should have a website and some even have apps. These platforms provide the perfect opportunity for collecting feedback. While it’s important not to annoy your site visitors and app users with constant requests to complete surveys and answer questions, when done correctly, it can be a valuable tool both for you and your customers.
In addition to having the option to submit feedback readily available, KissMetrics UX researcher Chuck Liu recommends keeping surveys as short as possible to be most effective. Feedback forms are also a great way to collect feedback without overwhelming your users. Most importantly, pay attention to the feedback they give. When customers see you’re taking their suggestions seriously, they’re more likely to communicate with you in the future.
Email Marketing & Announcements
Each time you make an announcement or send an email, you have an opportunity to collect feedback. Whether that announcement is in the form of a press release, a social media post, a new blog, or an email, you should take the chance to invite customers to provide their thoughts. You can even incorporate these invitations for feedback into small announcements like social media status updates.
Some businesses have gotten results by offering incentives for feedback. If a business has a budget for it, product managers can incentivize customers to participate in more extensive surveys by offering gift cards or discounts on purchases.
Your efforts to get feedback continue long after you’ve launched your product into the world. Traditionally, brands have provided a 1-800 number on product packaging to invite customers to call if they have questions or concerns. But that invitation has existed for so long, customers assume businesses only want to hear back on problems.
Instead of inviting customers to call with questions or concerns, invite them to visit your website to make a product suggestion or tell you how they like your product. You should also continue to ask customers to let you know what they think of your products, both through your social media channels and on your website. Make sure customers know you’re always open to suggestions on improvements you can make and they’ll be more likely to bring any ideas they have to you.
When businesses encourage customer feedback, they show customers they’re interested in creating a product consumers enjoy. In addition to finding opportunities to solicit feedback from customers throughout a product’s lifecycle, brands should take that feedback seriously in order to ensure they’re getting to know their customers and developing products that meet their needs.