This article explores different approaches to gain customer feedback to improve your products and offerings – from asking and focus groups to reading customer reviews online and learning through support requests.
Asking your customers
One of the most simple, yet often quite effective approaches to gain insight into your offerings is to directly ask customers. Your sales time may already be gathering such information when they are trying to sell your products, finding out what are the key factors that influence whether customers choose your offerings or decide to go with a competitor. Make sure to actively use this information – it is one thing to discover what their key needs are, it is a completely different thing to actively take it into account in your development product, looking to refine your offerings to better meet their needs.
An extension on directly asking your customers is to bring several of them together in a focus group, and inquire to the whole group about their thoughts on your product. Having multiple people there are once can help bring to the surface things that some people may be reluctant to share – allowing them to elaborate on points raised by others in the group.
Reading online reviews
There is often a lot of valuable information contained in customer reviews – what customers like, and what they dislike about your product. Customer reviews often attract the most passionate customers – those who really like your offerings and want to promote it, as well as those who have specific problems with the good and are unhappy about the service that they recieved. Although customer reviews may only be written by a small proportion of your customers (and not necessarily a representative sample), they may still provide some useful insight on where you need to improve. In many case, for each negative (or positive) review that you receive, there will be a large number of other customers who have had the same experience.
Analyzing customer queries and support requests
Another approach for learning from your customers is to specifically record and analyze the types of questions and issues that they are facing when contacting customer support. This can have a wealth of knowledge but is not always considered. Customer support may be a different department, and the silos within an organization may mean that understanding developed in one area is not transferred to another. As such, it can be useful to more proactively seek to learn and incorporate customer feedback in support requests into your business.
Final thoughts: There is still need for focus - don't try and cater to everyone's needs
While listening to customers is important – and they will likely provide a lot of valuable insight on how you can improve your business – it is also important to keep in mind that you can’t be all things to everyone. Trying to respond to every suggestion or feature request may mean that you dilute your focus – performing a lot of different things less well than you would be able to achieve were you more selective on the areas that you worked on. Thus, while it is important to listen to customers, it is also important to recognize the tradeoffs that may be inherent in many of their suggestions.