in How to mentor

Customer Feedback Rocks

Why guess what people want, when you can ask them and know?

A team of engineers from a big corporation recently pitched me a device that helps you take the perfect selfie. They planned to market ‘the smart mirror’ to women, so I asked what women thought of the product. They replied that they’d asked a colleague and she liked it.

I took a deep breath. The moment was a learning opportunity. I may have gotten a little poetic on the topic of knowing your customer. On the practical side, I got out my phone and gave them a few people to call. One of them was Simone Moelle, an influencer I know in Copenhagen.

Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted

They started our second meeting by telling me how many women they had asked for feedback, that their data indicated men take more selfies than women, and that Simone, the influencer I told them to contact, had taught them a lot. It was amazing what a bit of customer feedback could do.

Our discussion changed from “why do this?” to “how can you turn this into a big business opportunity?” It was a completely different discussion, made possible by knowledge about the customer. You can argue for or against options based on data. Informed assumptions can replace guessing.

Data is key

Some of this data had been harder to get than others and it taught several interesting lessons. Their cold calls to Swedish influencers went unanswered. I assumed influencers would pick up the phone when a big corporation called, because there might be money to make. The only reply, however, came from the Dane to whom I had introduced them.

The team knew plenty of women. Plenty of women work at their company. They’re not the first product team to forget to include the user in their process. It was good to see was how quickly they corrected their mistake. People are capable of change.

Invest in people, not products

You don’t have to watch a lot of “Shark Tank” to see why people say, “invest in people, not products”. It takes a lot of hard work to turn an idea into something people will buy. That hard work involves correcting a lot of mistakes, like forgetting to include the user in the product development process. You need to know how to make and correct mistakes.

For some, asking for feedback is hard

They brought their prototype to our third meeting. We were in Sweden, so I asked the obvious question. Yes, the mirror was from Ikea. I asked the obvious follow-on question, whether they had contacted Ikea’s product development people just up the road.

Five minutes later, one of the team admitted that his wife worked for, you guessed it, Ikea’s product development team. Based on the team’s prior performance, I have faith that their next pitch will include feedback from a certain furniture company.

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