One of the worst things a successful young startup can do once it actually starts generating reliable revenue is to ignore the people who made that happen in the first place: its customers.
And while there’s lots of talk right now about leveraging data to make smarter business decisions, finding a way to use customer data to make better business and product choices can be tough. There’s a lot of noise to sort through, and not every new feature or idea is worth implementing.
So I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs the following:
How specifically do you incorporate customer feedback into your product development process, and what big wins have you seen as a result?
Their best answers are below:
1. Utilize Support-Driven Development
We focus on customer feedback through support-driven development. Support-driven development means everyone in the company does support in some form or fashion. This way, the people who build the product, write the code, design the application and write the copy see front and center the challenges customers have using the product. Since the people who build it are also supporting it, they know the problems that customers face and are more likely to fix them because they have to support them, too.
– Wade Foster, Zapier
2. Figure Out Where the Real Value Lies
We collect extensive user feedback from all our customers — both about their experience online and offline. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort through all the noise and decide what’s really worth implementing. We get numerous feature requests, but our product would ultimately be weakened if we implemented all of them, and we’d waste time. Before we build anything, we always ask what value it would really create in the overall experience. This has also helped us find ways to monetize our business because identifying the true customer value illuminated opportunities to charge for our service.
– Martina Welke, Zealyst
3. Observe. Listen. React.
Early on, we hung on a user’s every word. We had a baseline understanding of the problem we were solving, but we were by no means subject matter experts. I remember our very first paying customer giving us a 10-day ultimatum to fundamentally change part of our app. We obliged and gained a super fan. Currently, the volume of feedback is borderline daunting. We used to track all feature requests, but have since opted for an observe-and-react approach. When we hear the same request 10 times — that’s when we know it’s time to make a move.
– Chad Halvorson, When I Work
4. Look for Patterns
We went through the process of talking with clients about their experiences with our CEO branding process, and what came up a couple of times was a desire to understand more about the company as a whole earlier in the process. So we are currently working on a new client orientation process, which will arm clients with the history, total service offering and frequently asked questions. It is important that you first are brave enough to ask for the feedback and, if you notice patterns, to be wise enough to implement it!
– Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group
5. Innovate Through Perspective
Traditional retail design occurs in a vacuum, based largely on current trends that are void of consumer insights. We take a different approach to design our products, and consumer insight is an integral part. The customer is engaged at two parts of the development cycle: early to identify pain points, and at the end to hone small details. The middle part of the cycle is where we apply creative innovation. One example of where we pivoted is when we heard from customers that our shirts were running small. We were able to iterate and get a new version of the shirt on the market in three weeks.
– Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply
6. Ask First, Then Develop
This has been a more recent focus for us, but we consider customer feedback absolutely essential to product development. For the better part of the last year, we’ve been using a tool called Qualaroo, recommended to us by Neil Patel, inside our membership site to collect all different kinds of feedback from customers without being too invasive. We’ve made a commitment to depend on customer feedback before developing any new product or service, and it has produced great results. Our customer satisfaction has been steadily rising, and conversion rates of new products have also done the same.
– Brian Moran, Get 10,000 Fans
7. Upgrade and Enhance Based on Customer Feedback
We are always upgrading and enhancing the software that powers our platform. Much of that enhancement is driven by customer feedback. It’s valuable to us as a company because not only does it improve the platform and keep the clients happy, but it also makes the lives of my account managers easier. This is because, ultimately, the client no longer needs to call the account manager as often once his suggestion has been incorporated into the platform.
– Felix Lluberes, Position Logic
8. Find Your Niche
Customer feedback was one of the main factors in helping my company find its niche — and, thus, its synergy and success. Before we started specializing in providing public relations for established and startup tech companies, we had a variety of clients across a broad spectrum of industries. When we were given a recommendation by a tech client to other firms in that industry, I realized that our best work was being done in this niche. I soon pivoted the company to focus exclusively in tech, and we have grown exponentially since then.
– Zach Cutler, Cutler Group
Image credit: Thinkstock
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