Knowing Your Customer’s Needs = Successful Product Development

Providing software products that meet your customer’s needs usually results in happy customers and good earnings.  If the product is an an easy-to-use app that helps your customer make money, then you’ll do well especially if the app is backed up by top-notch customer support.

But how do you get to this software nirvana where your customer is happy because your app does what he needs?  Answering that question in the right way is what separates successful software development companies from the less fortunate.

How to find out what your customer needs?
Know your customer's needs and you will be successful.Knowing what your customer needs comes from knowing how your customer does business.  You need to know his work flows, processes, and pressure points for making or losing money.  In short, you need to learn how to think like him.

How does this happen? Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Hire well and grab people who know your customers’ business.  In our case, that means hiring some people who worked in dealerships to help with product development.
  2. Create customer advisory groups that you can use to discuss ideas and identify trends.  If possible, these groups should not just have customers who buy your product but also prospects who don’t.
  3. Integrate user testing throughout your development process so your customers are banging away at new products as they are being developed.
  4. Survey customer interests and needs – again, not just for those customers you have, but especially for those prospects that you don’t have.  (Remember: Knowing why a prospective customer does not do business with you is as important, and possibly more so, than knowing why a customer does do business with you.)
  5. Make sure you have feedback systems in place from your Sales and Customer Support Teams into your Product and Development Teams.  This way you won’t end up with a lopsided view of things, but will get the full picture from what a sales person is told to what a customer support rep hears.

Is it possible to be too responsive?
As you build your product, you should always guard against responding to every single request, but instead be deliberate in everything you do.  Now, don’t throw a gasket and think I am saying that you should not respond to your customer’s needs… I’ve already covered my feelings there.  What I am saying is that the worst thing you can do is to respond to every little complaint because all it does is leave you reacting and not acting.  Thought is required to develop good products.  Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Create a process for managing and evaluating feedback (Remember this from above?).  Take input from customers and all the product stakeholders… and then evaluate.
  2. Prioritize bugs and critical features that relate to key workflows that equal customer success.  For bugs, if something doesn’t work, fix it fast.  For the rest, judge and prioritize.
  3. Avoid doing every little customization that customers request.  This is a great way to build a Frankenstein monster, not build good software.
  4. Train your customers about how your version your product.  Let them know how their feedback is handled.  Let them know there  is a process designed to build better software, meet their needs, and keep the product stable so it doesn’t hiccup when they need it most.
  5. If possible, let your customers know when you have applied new features that they have requested… while in every case, thank them for telling you what’s wrong or right with your product.
  6. Finally, practice self-restraint.  The best product development is not found it what you do, but what you do when and how much.  Trying to do everything usually results in doing very little well.

Don’t just assume… Test!
Now for the final tidbit.  Don’t assume that your ideas are golden.  Test them.  When creating UI/UX, present A/B tests (aka different mock-ups) to customers and non-customers alike.  Find out if your assumptions about how a screen should behave are true or if you are off-track.  Or, if you think a new feature will work, talk to customers to find out what they think.

Staying close to your customers’ needs and meeting them is the life blood of a product’s success…  Nothing else is more important.

2 Responses to “Knowing Your Customer’s Needs = Successful Product Development”

  1. Lori

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