Over the last few years, we’ve been engaged in a lot of agile web development projects. Agile development is all about keeping the needs of the customer at the forefront - and about getting work into the hands of the end customer as early and often as possible for feedback.
Signal takes an agile approach to our development process and we find that many organizations think the same way.
GE, a long-time Signal client, is known for strongly embracing the “Voice of the Customer.” Recent conversations with GE executives uncovered five real-life best practices that you can use today to get high-quality customer feedback.
- Keep the focus on feedback. Make it clear that this interaction is part of an iterative process – not a sales push or closing conversation. Let them know you’re there to understand what they like, what they dislike and what can be done to make their jobs easier. Bonus tip: don’t schedule feedback conversations near difficult negotiations or fulfillment.
- Make the service experience better. Listening to customer input is job one during feedback sessions. Do the quantitative and market research beforehand to allow space for a productive, open-ended conversation during your time together. Customers will feel heard and you’ll get better input.
- Less is more. Show them the idea and let them react. We usually try to avoid “awkward silences” but deliberately creating them can actually compel customers to give you additional insights. Questions should be limited to just a handful of topics. Avoid asking leading questions - such as, Would you say that…? - or jumping to conclusions. Be receptive and remain open to new information that arises.
- Pick the right customers. It’s easy to deal with customers who are champions for your cause. But fight the urge to solicit feedback only from your fan club. Ideally you want to listen to customers who are vocal and willing to poke holes in your way of thinking. Those offering tough input will help you get to a much more valuable outcome than those who politely say, Everything’s great, I wouldn’t change a thing.
- Don’t promise to solve all their problems. But do let customers know you will apply their feedback to changing what you have today. Show them your conversation is part of a mindful process that includes analyzing and translating their needs into real improvements.
Customer feedback is the part of agile development I like best. Often times we hear things we hadn’t thought of before –“You don’t know what you don’t know,” as the old bit of wisdom goes. Customers are essential in helping shape new ideas and discover fresh perspectives, which in turn will help your company grow.
Jim Ellis has over 20 years of experience in marketing strategy and implementation throughout a variety of industry sectors. Since 1999 he has been with Signal, a digital agency based in Wilmington and Raleigh, North Carolina. Signal has proven strengths serving as the “local agency” for global companies, generating solid results in web design, brand identity, mobile app development, digital strategy and more. Jim provides counsel to many of the agency’s largest clients with an eye toward integrated communications and a vast knowledge of both traditional and modern practices. As a songwriter and musician with a business degree, he believes his artistic/corporate “dual personality” gives him added perspective to be an effective liaison between clients and Signal’s talented creative team. Originally from Ohio, Jim graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.S. in Business Administration.