Gathering Customer Insights as a Three Step Approach


The practice of gathering feedback from your customers is *quite possibly* one of the most important things that a business can do to improve their product. To continuously improve, you have to gather information and understand what your end user is telling you.

But, gathering feedback is only the first piece of the puzzle. The second piece is doing something meaningful with that information; simply gathering does nothing. It’s like picking fruit to make a salad, but then leaving it on the counter until it goes rotten. Your customer’s insights will also go rotten if you ignore them.

Plus, to pretend to gather feedback to appear as though you are listening is (in my mind) a deadly marketing sin. People are smart and they will see through this. A prime example of this is any call centre automatic response to a Tweeted interaction:

Me: Last flight with @united was a terrible experience.
Tweeted Response: @sharbean This isn’t what we like to hear. Is there something we can help you with at this moment? We’re here to help. ^MO
Me: @united Your tweet is identical to one sent last week. An automated script? #unmarketing
Tweeted Response: @sharbean We really are here to help if there is any issue we can help resolve. We do appreciate your concerns. ^MK

When I Tweet a complaint I always feel like I’m poking an automated void. I hope (but am never quite sure) that there’s someone on the other end who wants to respond with some character or personality, but they can’t because of the strictures the business has set and the script they need to follow (assuming it is a person and not an automated system response).

This tells me that the company doesn’t really care about their customers. It’s a theatrical show to make it look like they are “keeping pace with the rest of the world.” And, is anything done with the information gathered? Probably not.

There is a third piece to gathering feedback; perhaps the lesser understood brother of a three child family: knowing when to listen to your users and act… and knowing when to question their feedback, think it through, and stay true to the principles of your design.

My favorite example of this is the never ending: “we need a phone app” request. Company X has an app and Bob (a customer) mentions during a feedback session that Company Y should get an app too. An app will make my life easier because then I can work from anywhere including from the bathroom (yes, I have had this request before).

But, what if your software is an online spreadsheet? Everyone thinks you need an app to “keep up with the rest of the world”… but I guarantee not one of those people is going to add data to a spreadsheet and run calculations from their phone. I can also guarantee that even Bob needs downtime and will not be working from the bathroom.

Before acting on comments and spending millions of dollars on a feature or product that may not be used: listen to what the customer is saying, think about the feedback before proceeding, validate with other users (and even the market) that you are on the right track, and decide whether or not to act.

In a nutshell, if I were to sum up everything above into a three step approach:

  1. Gather information from customers
  2. Think about the information you’ve received, validate, and decide whether or not to act
  3. Do something meaningful with that information

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