I've launched The Boedeker Group with a very simple premise; put the customer at the center of all product and marketing decisions you make. There's one very simple reason that I'm willing to build a company around this: it works. Data, not surprisingly, supports this. McKinsey and Company published that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated by a company. There is a wealth of data around the customer experience supporting what common sense would tell you - you create better products and retain customers at a higher rate when customers are your focus.
I've had hits and misses in my career when building out an end-to-end customer experience plan. Below are some tips I have used personally and shared with my team over the years to help in putting the customer at the center of the product review process specifically. It's not an exhaustive list, but a good starting point to consider when you look at your current process.
Build out an integrated market development and product development plan at the outset.
This sounds simple, but I've seen many examples of the siloed nature of market development and product development impact how the overall plan is created and therefore executed. Some companies have the Brand Manager/Acquisitions Editor/Portfolio Manager/Product Owner in charge of soliciting the customer reviews. Other teams have Product Developers take point. Others have Market Development Managers own this process. User Experience teams are doing their own reviews on platforms as well. Whoever is point, what's critical is the team comes together at the beginning of the project to build out an integrated plan that ties together product and market development. A RACI is a helpful tool to ensure there is clarity on who is:
- Responsible for each task
- who is Accountable
- who needs to be Consulted
- who needs to be Informed
This kind of document should be created as a team and agreed upon for all aspects of the process; from initial reach-out on the review, to individual steps throughout the process, to who will follow-up with each of the customers.
Deliver a personalized experience.
If your engagement with your customer feels generic to you, it feels generic to them too. There's a place for this. You can't send out every large survey with a personalized message to each recipient on the mailing list. But, when you can - when you are whittling down your target list and you know the schools, the districts, the committees that you need to win - take the time to personalize the reach out with an explanation on why specifically you are reaching out to them. Show that you have segmented your market and you're reaching out because you truly believe that the product that you have in development is the right product for them. If you don't believe it is, why are you targeting this customer anyway?
I won one of my biggest sales by remembering my top target liked racquetball and sending him a YouTube video of an interesting clip I thought he would appreciate. I mentioned nothing about any our products or previous reviews in that particular engagement. And while he never would have used our product if it ultimately didn't meet his expectations, he mentioned later than he appreciated that particular reach-out because it showed I listened to him (and remembered something personal about him) in a previous conversation. It helped to tip the scales. We all have these examples where we connect with reviewers about something personal while creating products. The difficulty is keeping track of these pieces of information when you have a hundred top targets on your vetted list.
- How do you save this information and ensure you don't miss a good opportunity to connect organically around those topics that would be of interest to these potential customers outside of what you're developing?
- Are you building your list with targeted keywords around their personal interests? It's an easy way to make a connection and build the relationship.
- Are you letting them know why they, specifically, are being contacted about a review?
If 70% of buying experiences are made based on the way a customer feels - how are you making them feel throughout your process? Are you building the relationship as you're building your product?
Complete meaningful follow-up.
There's a place at the end of surveys to write "thank you for participating." There's email automation that can send that same email. Great. It's nice to know the survey reached the right place. That is not, however, follow-up. Let's look at a "typical review process" from the perspective of a customer. Someone from the company reaches out and asks them if they want to review. They receive an email to fill out a background form to determine they're the right target. Then they receive the materials to review and a list of questions to fill out. They send in all the information and get a "thanks for participating in our survey" email. A few weeks later they receive their honorarium. Some will get contacted again for another review, and the process will repeat, with no reference to what they've said in previous reviews and usually with no request for information specifically tied to their background or what they said in previous reviews. Each review is treated as an isolated task to gather the feedback needed for product development.
Think about how you can provide meaningful follow-up throughout the process and allow each engagement to build off the last:
- When you're contacting a customer to ask them to review your product again, are you including why you would appreciate their feedback again?
- Are you taking the time to look at what they said in previous reviews and including any of their feedback in your request?
- When a product is about to go live, are you going back to the people who have given their time and shared their feedback to explain what you listened to and were able to apply to the product development (and thanking them for their influence) as well as what you couldn't apply to the product and explain why? While this one takes time, it is one of the most impactful ways to bring all reviewers back into your review process right at the time of launch, and remind them what it was they appreciated about your product.
Customers want to know that they are being heard. As product developers we may not be able to respond to every request when we build our product, but we do have the ability to explain how their feedback impacted its development. 70% of buying experiences are made based on the way a customer feels - do your customers feel heard in your process?
Every engagement with your customer is an opportunity to drive product development and build a relationship. With a well-defined plan from the outset, targeted and personalized reach-outs to your customers, and meaningful follow-up throughout the process you will be well on your way to ensuring the customer is at the center of your process -- building some rewarding relationships and winning some pretty big sales along the way.
This is what we're passionate about, and an area where we can help.