Maybe – actually, hopefully – you did your homework before immersing yourself into a new idea and followed the “Learn, Measure, Build” mantra before spending countless hours and money on something no one actually wants or needs. Or, maybe, you built an MVP first to test your idea, following the classic “Build, Measure, Learn” loop.
Maybe you were smart and lucky and you tapped into something that seems to resonate with some people out there who became your first paying customers. Then you get more paying customers, and so on, and so forth.
I’m all ears, honey
When you are already in the market, running and trying to grow the business, it is easy to forget about taking the time to learn from customers. (Or, easy to forget why you should do so in the first place.) In fact, you should, and in a previous article, I already shared some tips on how to use feedback for debugging and improving your product.
I have to admit that I also find it hard to find the time to proactively reach out to customers when my To Do list is full of other tasks that I’m primarily responsible for. But there’s always small things you can do in order to keep your virtual ears open to feedback.
Tips to start collecting customer feedback in an easy way
Here are some of the learnings that I distilled from my current job as part of a small Growth team that included Marketing and Sales, where manpower, time and budget are relatively scarce resources.
Start with a simple spreadsheet, instead of designing big research projects
You don’t necessarily have to aim at the stars when trying to be more customer-centric.
At the Software as a Service company where I’m currently employed, we’ve created a simple spreadsheet (Google Spreadsheet for easy collaboration, to be precise). In this document, we collect customer “insights” and questions we receive from prospects.
We use different colors (e.g. green and red) to mark whether we already provide answers to those questions/comments, including what pieces of information are missing from our communication.
By being able to track what kind of questions people keep on asking, we know what kind of content we should focus on (e.g. support articles). It may also help you learn how people think about your product category, what words they are using to describe features or their needs.
[Side note: here is a great article by a Dropbox UX designer that discusses how to use data from different sources to influence your copy and wording. Not exactly related to this blog post, but it’s another angle on how to do more customer-friendly product marketing.]
Keep track of random comments from different channels
The feedback and questions we receive from customers may come from different inbound or outbound channels: sales conversations, support calls, live chat, social media, blog comments, etc.
My number one advice is: log the notes as soon as you receive a random comment. Don’t set up plans such as “Yeah, sure, I will do a retrospective of all customer comments I heard during this month after I finish this major task I have a deadline for”.
It is way too easy to forget about side projects that don’t contribute to closing more sales in an immediate way. Learning from (target) customers influences your business success in the long run, therefore many people think it is less important. (Which is a wrong way of thinking, IMHO.)
Turn it into a group effort
Even if seasoned entrepreneurs admit that all companies need a Customer Advocate type of person, execution works better when it’s a group effort.
When sales, marketing and product support people collaborate to collect feedback, you make sure that you cover all channels. Also, it is easier to make sure that the selection will not be biased due to any personal interests (i.e. “I find this topic more crucial myself”) or fears (i.e. “Geez it is pretty embarrassing that people don’t understand this feature.”)
As a final advice, remember: start simple, but keep on doing it persistently, and don’t try to work as a lonely hero saving your company’s future.