5 ways to get the voice of the customer into your design process, Part 2

In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of two methods—Web Analytics and Product Views—for tapping the voice of the customer for product design. In this post, I’ll continue down the list with a look at three more ways of building your awareness of customers’ interests and needs.

3. Relationship-Building and Engagement

Now that you have a little background intelligence to work from, it’s time to engage your customers. Product promotion or social media engagement on the web creates an ideal environment to directly include your customers in a dialogue that furthers your knowledge of their interests and their unmet needs. Ask them about their experience with your product. What types of terrains or environments are they using your product in? How often do they use your product and how often do they need to replace it?

The most common tool to do this is a customer survey (mentioned in more detail in the next section below) but you can also engage customers by inviting Facebook comments about a need topic, tweeting about interests, or sponsoring an Instagram share. All of these tools provide information about who your customers are, and what interests them. Again you are looking for comment echoing—what environments or characteristics are echoed in this information.

4. Customer Research

If comment echoes, engagement and web analytics are not enough and you need further validation, it’s time to look into statistically reliable results. Primary market research that employs customer segmentation is not a difficult as you might initially think. Tools like Survey Monkey, Qualitrics, and other online survey software are easily accessible. They will provide you with a URL link to your survey. With this URL link you can send the survey out using multiple avenues. The URLs can be directly embedded on your website. They can also be posted on your Facebook page or sent out in an email broadcast. You can tweet the URL survey link or be daring and ask a few of the web review bloggers to post the survey for you. Web review site posting usually broadens the respondent pool and adds new customer markets for your new product or design considerations.

In writing your survey questions, make sure you cover the basic segmentation areas including:

  • socioeconomic demographics
  • behaviors
  • interests
  • product usage
  • media sources

When analyzing the information from your survey, create filters on survey elements such as age, gender, region and activities. This will enable you to group customer responses into useful interest segments for design consideration. I have found that a good rule of thumb is to have at least 250 respondents included in each segmentation group. Clustering, classification analysis, and decision trees are all useful statistical tools that help validate your segmentation analysis.

5. Product Testing

As soon as you’ve got a new concept or two worked out, go back to your Audience Segments to get their input. Let them test elements of your product design.

For example: Identify the elementary design changes under consideration in visual formats that don’t give away the strategic magic. Ask about the strong points or the appeal of new features or colors you are considering.

Once you have this input, you can use the voice of the customer segment to help steer your designs. The voice of the customer can also help you convince your leadership team that there are sizeable markets of interest for the taking.

The Benefits of the Customer Voice

Listening to the customer voice has many benefits. It helps you clearly state a design problem to be tackled and helps you identify missing product opportunities and uncrowded product space. It also provides valuable data about the breadth and depth of market interest and access. The information you collect through these five approaches can help you communicate with leadership and other operational departments about the audiences and markets you are targeting and the design elements you have chosen.