3 Reasons to Talk to Your Customers

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The other day Bryan was telling me about a company where most of the designers did not talk to their customers. I was flabbergasted ' after all, how can you not seek continuous feedback from your customers?

Think about it for a sec. How would you know what works and doesn't work with your product? How would you know if your product is solving the problem it was built for? More than that, how do you build better products if you ignore your customers? We've found that you can't, we talk to our ZURBapps customers everyday. There are a number of reasons we do this, a large part of it has to do with making sure we're building a product that is in line with users' needs.

Below are three main reasons why we constantly talk to our customers over email, phone, IM, or in-person everyday and how they've helped us build successful products, which we wanted to share with you.

Who Are Your Customers?

Eric Ries' first start-up is probably the best example of what happens when you forget to figure out who will use and pay for your product. Eric gave a thorough account of how his company failed to figure out his target market early on and the outcome that followed in this Wired interview.

Delving deep into who your customers exactly are, learning their habits and culture is the first step in building a lasting customer relationship. It's crucial to nail down who they are, how big a segment they are, and the problems they face. Mark Suster does a great job outlining how to narrow down your target market in his article titled: Who Are Your Customers: Elephants, Rabbits or Deer?

A recent Inc. Magazine article on building customer loyalty says it best: "define a unique niche and become the customer's expert on it." If not, you might have a product on your hands nobody wants.

Are You Building a Product People Need?

When it comes to customers, it's crucial to solicit feedback from the very beginning. In fact, it's never too early to start seeking their feedback. You've got to get feedback as early as possible or risk failure. It's a waste of time and money to build a product in a vacuum only to launch it and find out it's a flop.

Remember how Josh Levy and Ross Cohen blew $550,000 in funding without getting a single customer because they developed a product in silence first and tried to find a market later. A lot of time and money could've been saved had the duo had done some early user testing.

Turning Feedback Into a Way to Build Relationships

At ZURB, we use feedback as a mechanism to build relationships with our customers. The best way to illustrate this is our release of Solidify last Wednesday.

We were still developing the app. However, a few months before its private release last week, we gathered feedback from more than 20 people. These were not one time "feedback gathering sessions." When we launched last week, we came back to each one of those people to show them what we ended up using from their feedback and how we incorporated it into the app. Then we asked for more feedback.

As those people provide their second round of feedback, we'll continue soliciting their opinions, questions, concerns and excited shouts about Solidify. This process does not only help us build a product people want but it helps us build a meaningful relationship with our customers. We end up corresponding with these early adopters daily, and, in many cases, they become good friends.

Valuing the feedback of your customers goes a long way to building a relationship and a loyal friend. In other words, talk and listen to your customers, before, during, and after you build your product. Don't ignore them. By talking to them, you'll win them over and end up with evangelists of your products.

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