So, as all classic list-type posts must do — this one goes to 11. Understanding what your customers are saying is critical to the success of your product’s evolution. Here are 11 ways that individually provide varying perspectives on the customer’s opinion. Combined, they become powerful in providing a 360 degree view of the voice of that customer.
- Bring customers in to your office — this one may go without saying but it’s important to bring customers in. Show them the office and where the sausage is made and solicit their feedback via one-on-one interviews and usability testing. The insight gained here may be a bit contrived but you’ll start to get a feel for where the big boulders are in the road and what you should focus on next.
- Go where your customers are — classic field research techniques will provide you with the qualitative insight gained in #1 above with the addition of context. This is the customer in their natural habitat interacting with your product. In a lot of cases all you’ll need to do is observe. Don’t say a word. Just watch, take notes and pay attention to the nuances.
- Reach out and touch your customers — assuming you’ve forgiven the antiquated marketing slogan, the core of it is absolutely true. Call your customers – especially those that have quit your service. Typically, they’ve left for a specific reason or perception. While that perception may not actually be true it WAS true for them and defined their experience to the point of making them quit. Call them up. They’re dying to tell you about it. Guaranteed.
- Ask them why they’re leaving — inevitably customers will quit your service (see #3 above). On their way out, ask them, via survey, why they left your service or product. People love to vent and if your product frustrated them they won’t hesitate to share their thoughts. This is the perfect time to solicit this information since it’s fresh in their minds and caustic enough to drive abandonment.
- Survey the landscape — for general, high-level, directional understanding of what your audience is feeling about or doing with your product/service nothing beats a survey. They’re easy to set up on services like Surveymonkey.com and provide solid analysis into the general segmentation trends of your audience. Pick a large sample size since completion percentages will likely be low.
- Look at the numbers — do you have an analytics tool on your site? No? Google Analytics is free and does some pretty amazing things for a free product. Need more power, dig into something like Omniture or Webtrends to get the deeper insight you need. Use this data directionally to get a sense of how your audience is using your site. Where are they spending time? Is something engaging them there or are they getting stuck? Are they bailing out at some point? Dig in and find out why. Did I mention this was totally FREE data available to you right now?
- A/B Test — think something works well? What if you tweaked the wording or changed the call-to-action? Red vs. blue? Your audience will vote with their mouse when you show them two separate options. Make sure your results are statistically significant before declaring a winner but this is an easy option for gaining quick optimization wins and understanding what type of triggers work best with your audience.
- Talk to your customer service folks — your CS reps are the front lines of the customer feedback loop. When something’s wrong, they hear about it — a lot. Buy them a couple of pizzas and spend your next lunch hour with them discussing their top 10 complaints for the month. Then, do that next month and the month after that. Rinse, repeat. You’ll be amazed how much knowledge of your audience is available within your organization.
- Talk to your sales people — on a similar note, your sales people are the leading edge of where your customers are headed. Sales people hear about current pain points, how your current offering addresses those pain points and what benefits the competition is offering. In addition, listen in on several sales calls a month. You’ll be amazed at the way your product is being sold. Your perception of the product will be forever changed.
- Guerillas in the mist — got a hot new idea? think it will crush the competition and reinvent your industry? Before you spend the next 4 iterations building it, get a prototype together and head to your nearest coffee shop, library, public park, wherever and show it to people. Offer them something in return for their time — movie tickets, gift cards, etc — and get their immediate feedback. Bonus: you’ll start acquiring new customers and solid word of mouth if your prototype is a hit. Even if it’s not, you’ve learned something and spent minimal dollars and time doing so.
- Get personal — if you’re offering a lifestyle product or a service that attempts to manage or automate a complex process that takes place over a longer period of time, consider getting some users to agree to a diary study. In essence you get a handful of customers to write down their daily activities over the course of a week or so and detail how your product/service fits into those regular activities. It’s a little bit expensive — $500/person/week is a fair price and you’ll have to call your participants daily to ensure they’re completing their diaries regularly. At the end of the process you’ll have 5 books’ worth (literally) of raw material to comb through, analyze and build patterns of use.
These 11 ways will bring you closer to customer and help you understand, quickly and cheaply, why they do the crazy things they do. Use them, love them and make them part of your regular routine. The insight they yield can help shape the future of your work.
Like these suggestions? What’s missing? Let me know in the comments.