Anyone in the product development game is concerned with building a better mousetrap. But a surprising number fail to ask themselves a simple and vital question: what is a better mousetrap?
Does the particular product need to be cheaper? Faster? Bigger? Smaller? Sexier? More powerful?
The answers to these questions don’t come from product developers, nor engineering support managers like me. They come from the end users.
Without knowing what your customer wants, you could be building the wrong mousetrap – an engineering marvel that looks/works/tastes great, but that simply doesn’t meet a demand. So it is imperative in product development that you capture the voice of the customer; not only in the beginning, but throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.
And in my role, I help to do just that.
What is Voice of the Customer (VoC)?
VoC is about using whatever means possible to capture the business needs and requirements of your customer. These needs and requirements are things like:
How they want to use your product
How they actually use it
How they feel about it
What they do and don’t like about it
How they think it could be better
How it aligns with your business/brand
How your brand supports them
Whether complimentary services are supplied with the product
The list goes on…
There are many ways that an organisation can gather these business needs and requirements. Some do it in an unstructured fashion, but a lack of organisation will result in equally disorganised (and difficult to action) feedback.
On the flipside, organisations who create a methodology to capture information and continually feed it back into the product development process will reap the greatest rewards.
The process of capturing information can be aided by a wealth of different interactions, including:
User groups (focus meetings/interviews)
Support or customer surveys
Account management meetings
Putting VoC into action
From this information you can develop personas, which are designed to depict the different forms of customers that use your product in a certain way. These personas allow you to map expectations and needs onto your product.
Your personas should be under constant review, and as their needs change you can adapt your product to ensure that it continues to meet these needs, resulting in that improved mousetrap.
No one knows what the customer wants better than the customer themselves – a fact that can be lost on those who are neck deep in the product development game.
Engineering Support Team Lead
Maintaining the edge
Building a better mousetrap is different today than it has been in the past, when we may have been talking about actual mousetraps. In today’s agile, fast-paced and ultra-competitive world, a better mousetrap isn’t better for long.
It is essential therefore to have a continuous loop in your process to guarantee that ever changing customer needs are captured and introduced into the product development lifecycle at the right time.
No one knows what the customer wants better than the customer themselves – a fact that can be lost on those who are neck deep in the product development game. So it’s important to remind ourselves from time to time that listening to and learning from the voice of our customers will always be the ultimate way to make a product and brand great.