Wouldn’t it be nice to get labour that works for free? Not that you don’t love your employees and don’t want to see them paid appropriately … but who doesn’t love free stuff?
It might not be obvious to everyone, but there’s actually an amazing trick out there in new product development that puts your own customers to work for you!
We’re talking about converting your customers into feedback mechanisms. Their input can help you to make better products that are suited to the needs of the market. It’s kind of like having a secondary design team. Below, we’ll show you how you can utilise customer engagement as a source of input to your development.
The benefits of involving customers in your design process
Why should you want to involve customers in your design process? Here are a few benefits:
- Involving your customers more often can increase the loyalty they have with your company and products;
- Involving your customers from the onset of new product development increases your success in project selection. It will be easier to pick which projects to advance once you know what customers are interested in buying;
- You increase the word-of-mouth and customer review cycles so that your customers are more engaged in your brand as a whole; and,
- You put your customer at the center stage of your business success rather than relying on glitzy new tech or excited engineers to steer your company.
5 Easy ways to involve customers in your design process
- Map out the customer journey
Like an adventurer planning for the departure of a trip, you need to know how your customers interact with your business, every step of the way.
A Customer Journey Roadmap is one way to accomplish this. In it, you’ll chart the customer experience (CX) from the first contact to final sale (and beyond). By doing so, your product managers, developers, sales representatives, and colleagues around the company will have a foundational guidepost to use when orienting where and when to seek out customer engagement.
Once you have a roadmap, then you can anchor your customer surveys and questionnaires to the important touchpoints with your customers. Input at every stage can help you improve the design of not only your products but also the periphery areas of your business, too.
- Create a customer experience committee
As you set up the internal processes to utilise customer feedback more regularly, one approach you should take is to strike up a customer experience (CX) committee. These are also called advisory boards or customer working groups. Regardless of the name you choose, the main point is to invite your customers into your design process.
With a CX committee, you open the door for real customers to talk shop with designers, executives, and customer service representatives. The insights gained will feed directly into product development and operational decisions.
- Iterate and test
While it is true that you can never do enough testing during development, at some point, you will have to launch a product. Before that final stage, however, you should ensure that your customers are involved in your iterative design process.
With iterative design, you prototype (as early as possible) and get successively more input as you improve your project over several development cycles. With customer feedback along the way, you can snuff out any issues with the product well before the launch is near.
To utilise customers as a secondary design team during testing, be sure to schedule focus groups and surveys within your product roadmap.
- End the project successfully
Launching a successful product is easier said than done. But you can find success even if your sales don’t live up to your expectations. To leverage customer input in your business operations, it is important to close the loop on a project while also keeping the door open for customer feedback after the final purchase.
A subtle nudge at the final sale stage of the customer journey can lead them to leave a rating or a review of your product. Most of these feedback channels will be publicly visible online through your store or a testimonials stage.
Research suggests that customers value the opinions of other customers and people they know more than anything else. This peer-to-peer trust is essential to your future sales and brand development.
- Inform decisions with data
Whether it’s through your customer feedback or with information collected after launch, you should always try to triangulate business data in your decision-making process. How will you know whether your product was a success? What would you change about your next project, knowing what you know now?
To find out the answers to these questions, here are two examples of success criteria that you can integrate into how your data monitoring:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) describes how loyal your customers are and what they think about your brand.
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): shows the percentage of total customers who are satisfied with your product.
We’ll only share a couple of examples here but there is a fairly exhaustive list of data that can help your business respond to customers. These types of customer-centric metrics can also ensure you monitor whether customers will continue to buy from you and recommend you to others.
Innovolo is a U.K.-based innovation provider that offers wrap-around services for your business to use many of the methods we have seen in this post:
- Create the ideal customer journey roadmap to inform your design process;
- Establish a customer experience committee to ensure you get regular opportunities to meet and discuss your products with customers;
- Create a prototype to run by customers for further iterative development;
- Develop feedback mechanisms even after the final sale of a product to encourage peer to peer trust; and,
- Integrate data-centric approaches to inform your decision-making process.
For cost-effective solutions for all these opportunities and more, check out our Unlimited Innovation-as-a-Service options at www.innovolo.co.uk.