When your days are spent writing code for a new application with an aggressive deadline, you barely have time to step outside for coffee. It’s not like you don’t love what you do: You love the intellectual exercise of building new technology whether you’re building a VR game or a SaaS app for the financial services industry.
In the back of your mind, you wonder if your product will have exceptional product/market fit.
With numerous stakeholders involved and many milestones to be made , it can be easy to get further and further away from your customer.
Every software developer will acknowledge that engineering and product development, in general, are smoother when teams have direct lines of communications to their customers — but who has the time these days?
The key is to use feedback techniques that fit naturally into your existing collaboration workflows and processes. Here’s how some of the world’s top companies are building more direct lines of communication between product teams, developers, and customers:
1. Eventbrite asks product teams to shadow customer support lines
Eventbrite has built its customer success team with an open-door policy. The company regularly asks team members to spend time listening to — and sometimes responding to customer needs — on customer support lines.
The key is to provide a direct and transparent lens into frustrations and pain points, which developers can then address directly. You can learn more about Eventbrite’s process in this article for American Express OPEN Forum, here.
Try this strategy yourself:
- Ask to listen to customer support call recordings
- Ask to listen to a customer support call, live
- Ask to shadow someone on your customer success team for a day
2. Adobe’s engineers take turns commanding live chat conversations
You read that right — every single engineer on one team within Adobe takes time each week to speak to customers directly. Not only does this exercise break up the work day, but it also gives product teams a direct lens into key customer points of friction.
Engineers use the feedback that they receive to independently brainstorm solution to product challenges. You can learn more about Adobe’s process in this talk Blur the Line Between Customer and Engineer from the 2014 Lean Startup Conference.
Try this strategy yourself:
- Spend some time commanding or shadowing your company’s live chat software
- Ask if you can read or browse through chat logs
- Ask your customer success teams if you can access any analytics software
3. Intuit’s team members follow their customers home
Responsible for developing widely used software including QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint, the company serves more than 37 million customers around the world.
To form a deeper connection with these diverse audiences, at scale, the company aims to get the most precise research findings possible — people tend to behave differently when they’re in labs. You can read more about Intuit’s process here.
Try this method yourself:
- Ask your most loyal customers if you can visit them at a location of their choosing
- Set up a booth at an industry trade show or conference
- Be a fly on the wall, and go observe your target audience in a neutral setting like a shopping mall or restaurant (a good excuse to take a break from coding, too)
Choose the right tools for your business to support your research
You’ll want to capture your users’ unfiltered, in-the-moment reactions: When you witness your customers in action, you’ll begin to perceive your product in a different light.
The right tools will help you capture that unfiltered, true-to-life perspective. Here are some favorites, for your product and development teams to gain the insights that they need.
Intercom for targeted in-app and email customer feedback
Intercom‘s customer feedback software touts itself as “everything you need to get quality customer feedback.” This includes targeting the right customer to message using live data, creating messages inside web and mobile apps, getting feedback form inactive customers with email, grouping related feedback with tags, and more.
“With Intercom, we’re able to easily collect quality feedback by asking our customers the right questions at the right time. Intercom has been a huge leap forward in the way we gather qualitative customer insights,” explains David Shackelford, Product Manager at PagerDuty.
UserVoice for intelligent product feedback
UserVoice makes it simple to capture customer feedback through multiple channels and aggregate it into a comprehensive database, allowing for apples-to-apples feedback. The product feedback management software also has the tools to transform large amounts of customer feedback into product insights.
“In the end, the quality and quantity of participation in our user community is far better than we have on social media,” says François Amigorena, President and CEO at IS Decisions.
Qualaroo for customer insights
Qualaroo makes it easy to survey specific groups of website visitors to gain qualitative information. With Qualaroo, you can get a clear picture of who your customers are, and what they’re looking for on your site helping the marketing, customer service and product departments of your business. They also have hundreds of proven “recipes” so you can save time trying to build the right survey.
“The insights we’ve received from Qualaroo have turned into winning pages that are worth millions or tens of millions…”— Dr. Karl Blanks, Conversion Rate Experts
Instabug for in-app feedback and bug tracking
Top apps like BuzzFeed, Lyft, and PayPal rely on Instabug, and it’s no wonder why: The customizeable SDK is built for developers by developers and only takes 60 seconds to integrate. The in-app feedback and bug tracking tool lets your users submit feedback, report bugs, and suggest new features —all within your app.
Here’s what the eBay team has to say about Instabug: “The users love shaking the device to send in feedback! Not to mention the ‘user steps’ tracking that gives the developers a great idea of what the user did to run into a bug.”
Segment streamlines the process of collecting feedback from every datapoint (mobile, web, server, and cloud apps), while offering more than 180 integrations to empower your team. Furthermore, developers love Segment because it contains a simple API, only has one SDK to test, and pairs the integration with a live debugger.
“Segment’s interface has allowed non-technical people at Trunk Club to adjust integration configurations without the need for any developers,” says Jason Block, Senior Software Engineer at Trunk Club. “Almost 100 people including product managers, engineers, and marketers are making decisions with data collected by Segment.”
FullStory for in app user behaviors
If you want to maintain a thorough, in-depth perspective of in-app behaviors, FullStory is the tool to use. With a snippet of code, you can begin recording user behaviors in your app and never have to question what exactly your customer paint points are.
“We use FullStory for a variety of reasons but most importantly to track bugs. When our product team does a feature roll out, we want to monitor any issues our customers might experience and Fullstory allows us to see issues, if any, happen in real time.” – Curtis Morris, VP of Customer Success at Assembla
The bottom line
These research methods enable software development teams to become more customer-centric. It can be easy to get further and further away from a customer when you’re working on multiple projects with various stakeholders involved.
These processes and tools are designed to help software developers get closer to the customers they’re developing software for. The goal is to create a relaxed setting that is conducive to learning. If possible, watch customers going about their operations, naturally.
Don’t coach them: envision your role as an objective observer.
Have any other favorite customer feedback tools? If so, feel free to share them in the comments section below!
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.