Engaging Your Customers In the Development Process
Direct customer involvement in the development process is becoming increasingly important. The more customer involvement the greater your chance of developing a product that meets customer needs. The goal is to invest less of the product manager’s time in excess documentation and use that time to solicit customers’ perspectives.
As you work your way through the product development process, you’ve had lots of opportunities to interact with clients. These occasions are goldmines. Use these encounters to refine your product plans and improve products. As product manager, stay focused on detecting patterns in the feedback you get from different customers. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by individual data points and observations.
Maximize Your Customer Interactions
Making the most of your customer interactions begins with a well-defined plan and an objective. This structured approach buoys your customers’ confidence in you and your company. Plus, it gives you the best chance of getting top quality input from your customers.
Define Your Objective
What do you most want to learn from your customer? Are you seeking frank feedback on your plans? Do you hope to walk the customer through a prototype your team has developed? Perhaps you want to test the waters on various pricing strategies. Your best chance of getting valuable information begins with a solid objective.
Choose the Right Forum
You can plan your customer engagement to take place through a variety of formats. Choose the one that will work best for the type of information to hope to gain.
Format possibilities include:
- Site visits
- Virtual meetings
- Visits to your corporate office
- Regional client meetings
- Client conferences
- Focus groups
Set Yourself Up for Success
Before you undertake your client meeting, create visual aids that will facilitate the conversation. Going in fully prepared reflects well on you and your organization.
Prepare questions that are designed to get at the information you need. Don’t be afraid to fine-tune these questions as you go along. It is likely that as you interact with clients, you’ll need to adjust some of your original assumptions. In the end, this will lead to an improved outcome.
Watch Your Time
Be considerate of the amount of time your customer has to devote to the meeting. Set the parameters at the start and end within your client’s time limits. Don’t go over unless your client extends the meeting’s length.
Thank Your Client
You can create goodwill for yourself and your company by taking the time to thank your client in writing after the meeting. Send a written note or at the very least an email. Doing so can bolster your relationship going forward.
Watch for my next post when I’ll discuss the value of forming a Customer Advisory Council.