Got no innovation ideas? Tired of hearing problems, complaints, negative feedback, or never-ending suggestions from customers, users, colleagues … or even yourself? Here is why you should welcome these in product design!
User’s feedbacks are the gold nuggets
- to improve your products
- for new products
- for new market service opportunities
… additionally to very short terms sales wins
Choose wisely who will face/be in contact with your customers. The most frequent cases are:
- sales colleagues
- sales administrative
- customer support
- social media
And as a product designer or product manager, build a dedicated process to capture this feedback. The guys above should not only solve the problem in a very short-term solution but also have a long-term benefit for the other users and for your product/company.
TIP: customer support, facing the customers … it is sometimes advisable to have an independent-from-creator guy to prevent some unwanted “hot reaction”
- not too much “engineer”, but more a sales/marketing attitude; for the attitude so as for the communication and language aspects (not a code programming discussion here); the engineer could be tempted to see the technical feasibility or its cost rather than the user need or point of view (“voice of the customer”)
- somebody not getting red while hearing any remarks on his “baby” on which he spent days, nights and week-ends to its development.
Tip on Tip: be especially careful when both your customer and your developer are both not interacting in their native language, like English. That would suppress all nuances in the comments and any misunderstanding could degenerate into angry unwanted communications. When applicable, pick-up the phone to clarify is better than tons of more and more angry email exchanges.
Product failure feedbacks
In technical design & Risk Analysis terms, this feedback will define the failure modes.
As soon as you start to have 2-3 similar bad product feedbacks, react, and don’t wait for a written claim! Take out of your mind that users are spending their time just to annoy you. There is something, even if that is possibly just a misunderstanding, but then the real problem is communication that you must also correct.
if it involves safety, already one(1) bad market feedback or problem should already trigger a review action (automotive, medical, safety …)
Maybe the product is weak? –> design better & better than competitors
Maybe the product is used in the wrong way? –> Improve the Instruction for Use (IFU) or maybe some ergonomics issue or some labeling/marking or some translation; do again some usability tests with first-time users and be the-fly-on-the-wall (aka, look at the user testing it without interfering).
Maybe the product is used for something else than the intended use ? another market segment opportunity (maybe should be advertised or sold differently there also) or room for another easy-similar product.
See also the article about innovation between segments.
Go hunt for Innovation gold nuggets, proactively!
It’s a bit easier in IT domains, but still possible in all markets somehow. Among several methods:
- traditional method: use an independent study company
- questionnaire/feedback directly in the product box. Tip: printing a feedback page in the IFU is a cheap possible method, but having it as a separate paper will make it more visible and trigger more feedback. Some incentives on it will help further (“get one free consumable”)
- mail or forum on your site (should all new idea posts be visible to other visitors?)
- have a search feature on your site, collect the search terms, and perform a regular review of what your visitors are looking for. Whether or not you were the correct company to provide what was searched is arguable, but these searches do represent real customer needs. A less-effective variant of that is to analyze the server logs and see what search terms lead visitors to your site and then the path and leaving the page of your site.
- Feature request link (many people like to give their opinion & ideas; just collect them … you have your next product specifications!)
They will appreciate some reward (like being called directly for discussion or being a beta tester of the product if there is no security issue)
True story: a famous video-projector company, had an independent forum website with a generic different site name, 99% maintained by one of their employees. The forum was about discussion and support for all brands, and although he was not saying or arguing the contrary, you really had to dig a lot to see which company was behind.
Was it a way to get comments, defects, and ideas about their competitors? Original idea, but very borderline deontologically from our point of view.
Note to forget the marketing motto: “word of mouth is gold” = a happy customer will speak & advertise for your product much more (and cheaper) than you will ever be able to
The last word: courtesy
Listening to feedback is not only for opportunities & (next) designs … it’s simply being open-minded … and polite!
In the wording of course, but in the attitude also.
Think of the last time you got by email or by phone a so-called “customer support” that:
- was actively looking on your side to find a fault (even if they were possibly true)
- saying its not their fault
- … spending more time (and huge writing) saying arguing and defending, than just giving you a quick help to get you started
or that was in fact an automatic answering bot, asking you plenty of questions and you just can choose between press #1 or press #2 each time. It makes you crawl in its tree-like questionnaire. The only real choice you had was to hang down. And later on, you read on the website that they claim to have #1 support according to any unknown
No doubt that in some years AI software will change that & have an even a better calm & really listening attitude and knowledge to help you solve problems than humans. Be sure at that time to integrate some product idea grabbing in that software!
Even if the customer made a mistake, somehow it’s your mistake (not user friendly? not explained enough ? too complicated ? too small easy-to-lose parts ? missing the right tool ? an edge was sharp ? too fragile for the intended use or even for another ? ….)
Do you still see the bottle half empty or half full when you get a claim? (tip: the gold nugget is in the half-full mindset)