Strategy, brainstorming facilitation, and CEO coaching in Ojai, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles

In my time running a design studio, and working with technology companies large and small, I was always surprised by the creative excuses for not getting more customer feedback, like:

“Our product managers already really know the space, that’s what we pay them for”

“Our CEO is a [doctor/architect/accountant/horticulturalist] so he knows the industry really well”

“We’re constantly asking our sales people for customer feedback”

“Customers don’t know what they want”

And almost universally:

“We don’t have time”

Sure you know your industry, and you listen to your customers, and you read the online forums, and you talk to your customer support staff. The trouble is you’re biased. No matter how hard you try to be objective, you have been living and breathing your product forever, and you are starting to get used to it’s idiosyncrasies. No matter how much you know the space, you simply aren’t living in your customer’s shoes day-to-day. The trouble with just getting feedback from online forums and from the sales teams is that it’s also heavily biased – by sales people who need a feature to close a deal, or by the loudest power users who frequent your online forums.

“But”, you say, “we talk to our customers all the time”.

Yes, insights will come from talking to customers, and that’s certainly better than not getting any feedback, but the problem with simply talking to customers is they often can’t articulate what they want. Their feedback will be limited the confines of your current feature set, and most often to bugs that irritate them, especially the one they encountered most recently.

“Fine, but we just don’t have the time and budget”

And here’s where the rubber really hits the road. I could tell you all day that by getting better customer feedback, you’ll fix issues sooner, when they are cheaper to fix, and your product will be more successful, which is all well and good, but you have a deadline to hit and a limited budget.

This is why I love Innovation Games. While I would be very happy if everyone bought into doing ethnography and user research, the reality is that many product groups aren’t ready, or they’ve already committed to a release schedule and simply don’t have time. The great thing about Innovation Games is that they can give you some unbiased, useful feedback in a matter of a few days, and will get you much deeper insights than simply asking “what do you want to see in our next release?” Games like “Buy a feature” not only help you prioritize features but give you deeper insights from the negotiations and conversations that happen between customers in the heat of the game. “Start your day” gives you insights into how customers use your product (or a competitor’s product) throughout different times of the day, week, month and year.

So maybe you don’t have the budget (yet) to do ethnography and user research – that doesn’t mean you can’t get some valuable feedback, and that may make the difference between a flop and a very successful release. I’ve heard all your excuses – let’s play some serious games!

One Response to ““But we already know our customers” and other excuses for not getting customer feedback”

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