The Voice of the Customer

Part of Product Management and Agile Product Ownership is to incorporate the Voice of the Customer into whatever you are building.   Whether the customer is a farmer, a small business owner or a busy executive, it is the Product Manager’s job to get in their head and figure out how to solve their problems.  How do you know that you are getting the best information? 


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Here are several methods of collecting data and each serves a particular purpose.

1. Interview

Meeting one-on-one with customers or prospects can enable you to collect great feedback.  The trick to the interviewing process is to ask open ended questions.  What is your number 1 business problem? What is the most time-consuming task in your day? What do you enjoying doing the most?  The data that you can gather from these conversations can be golden.  Make sure, though, that you remember that a single data point is just that.  Look for common threads from several conversations and solve the greater need.

2. Observe

This technique is often employed when studying usability.  Sit back and watch a customer use your product or software.  Don’t interfere.  Act like a scientist observing a cheetah in the wild.  You will gain amazing insights from this exercise.  The things that are so obvious and simple to you might be huge usability concerns for your customers.

3. Listen

If you don’t have the budget to travel and see customers or prospects face-to-face, you can still gather meaningful feedback.  If you have a Helpdesk or customer support line, every product manager should spent time there.  Listen in on the phone calls for several hours and you will become educated on your customers’ pain points.  Even if your Customer Service Reps (CSRs) are great at first call resolution, try and discern why customers are calling to beginning with.  What can you change in the product, the workflow or the onboarding that could have prevented the call?

4. Survey

If budgets are limited and time is tight, surveys are a nice option.  As Pragmatic Marketing has taught us, surveys are most effective when used to validate learnings from interviews rather than serving as the first or only form of feedback. But their role can be significant, particularly if you have a skeptical management team that isn’t hearing the Voice of the Customer.  A data-driven discussion backed by survey results can move an organization into action.

Are you incorporating the Voice of the Customer into your product roadmap?  There are many ways to gather information and it is critical that you do.  Even small enhancements show customers and prospects that you care and you are listening.


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