We’ve all been in situations where we’ve been working on a project or a product design so long we simply can’t see it through someone else’s eyes.

PLM

When we’re so used to staring at the design that we miss a problem that’s incredibly obvious to a new user. When we think a menu is smooth and easy to use, but it’s really very confusing if you haven’t seen it before. When we’re missing a feature that would solve a ton of frustrations for potential clients.

This makes customer feedback incredibly important, all through the product development process. However, getting the right feedback from the right people, and figuring out how best to use it, poses more of a challenge.

Let’s take a look at 6 ways to start generating better customer feedback, no matter what stage you’re at in the product lifecycle.

1. Focus On the Most Valuable Customers

To begin with, remember that not all opinions are equally valuable to you. You need to be smart about whose feedback you elicit and which responses you pay most attention to.

While it’s good to have an open mind about who might use your product, focus on your primary buyer personas. Ultimately, you should care more about feedback from the kind of people who are most likely to actually buy the product. It doesn’t matter so much what someone has to say if they’d never use the item anyway.

2. Get People Using the Prototype ASAP

You can’t get feedback without giving people something to feed back on! As soon as you have a working prototype or early stage version of your product, gather together a small group of testers to try it out.

It’s never too early to start gathering insights – and with the right PLM platform, you can feed your discoveries straight back into your design process.

3. Use Live Chat to Source Feedback

Usually we think of a live chat customer service feature as a way of adding value for users, but it’s also an extremely effective tool for gathering useful feedback for your product development.

If you’re looking for honest feedback, you can’t get better than your live chat channel. After all, this is where people go to look for help with the things they’re struggling with, to ask about features and functions they think should be there, and to complain about problems they’re experiencing with your product.

This means you get the unfiltered, direct perceptions and views about your product that you so desperately need to improve it.

4. Have In-Depth, Unstructured Conversations

Sometimes, the structure of questionnaires and feedback forms can actually stifle the flow of discussion and lead to less helpful answers. People feel under pressure to give a set answer, while you don’t get enough detail, insight and nuance to fully understand their responses, or to make meaningful improvements to your product.

A good way around this is simply to have a chat. While informal conversations are hard to scale, they do provide valuable qualitative data. You also have the opportunity to build on people’s answers by asking follow-up questions or eliciting clarifications.

The result is an in-depth response with the potential to inspire your next round of developments. Just keep in mind, though, that this is one person’s opinion and don’t get too carried away until you’ve cross-referenced their opinions with other sources of feedback!

5. Incentivise Filling In Surveys

Surveys are a great way to gather high volumes of straightforward information about the kinds of people who use your product and the things they use it for. The problem, though, is giving people a good reason to spend time filling them in.

One great solution is to offer “priority” access, a free trial or prototype version of your product to people who agree to fill in the form. This encourages people to place more value on the product, and thus to give more detailed responses about why they want to use it. As a result, you get much more valuable data on your customer base that can help you hone your marketing and features.

6. Run Usability Testing

You know the expression, “show, don’t tell”? That can be super useful when getting a picture of what works and what doesn’t with your product, too.

Usability testing is when you give someone a product they haven’t seen before and watch them to see how quickly they figure it out. This tells you how intuitive it is to use and whether you need to tweak things to make it clearer and more obvious.

Note that if the product you’re testing is a software application, you can track interactions really easily and run usability tests on a large scale, with many different testers taking part. Physical product testing will need to take place with smaller groups, of course – probably in a market research-style setting.

Final Thoughts: Tracking and Using Responses

Of equal importance to gathering great feedback is making sure that information reaches the people who can use it.

Make sure you have the technology in place to record and share customer feedback with your design and development teams around the world, so that they can start kicking the changes into action. A top PLM platform will facilitate this collaboration and make sure your hard work doesn’t get lost in the system before it can become truly useful!

Learn more about how PLM technology fuels top-drawer product development.