As entrepreneurs, it is easy to get caught up in dreaming up the “perfect product” – or at least the version we ourselves consider perfect. For my first business, a tech-company, we had a very clear vision: the perfect fitness app experience. We worked hard on our value proposition: Why would customers buy our product? Why is it different? What are the benefits? We spent hours in our ivory tower spinning ideas and making assumptions about customers. The crucial mistake: we only asked our potential customers about their opinion when it was almost too late.
App development teams involve different types of people, backgrounds, experiences and preferences. While the developers want the most efficient technical solution, the creative side wants the most beautiful visuals. Very often, it is the task of the project head to bring these two together and create the best experience for the users, at the same time taking into account what the actual customer wants. It is all about making compromises.
Looking back, I remember that my cofounder who had had some experience with creating customer journey and user experiences, tried to push for a Minimum Viable Product (You can read more about this concept here.) and get more feedback from potential users. I did hear him. However, I was obsessed with improving the product first and then test it. Months into the development process, I decided to have the product tested by potential customers. Our product was almost finished and ready to launch.
I had to learn it the hard way: We got very good feedback. But there were also ideas and perspectives we as developers had overlooked. Some of the features we considered as crucial were considered useless by the users. Others could have been improved with little effort if we had known about the customer motivations earlier. If we had done feedback rounds from the beginning, most of the points could have been incorporated easily. By then, it was almost too late and we had to delay them. In the end, we were able to incorporate the feedback, but at a much higher cost and with much more effort. We could have avoided the detour, if we had started the feedback process earlier.
Receiving customer feedback is scary. As a founder, the product is your baby. It is your idea. And if somebody criticises it, we may take it personally. However, the reality is brutal. Attention spans of customers are extremely short. If they are not convinced immediately, they will move on fast and they will not come back. Very rarely do we get a second chance.
By involving customers into the development process, you can not only avoid stepping into pitfalls but it also makes the whole feedback experience less scary. Even if it is hard, be open to changes to your idea. Flexibility is one of the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs. Once you have done round of feedback, you will get used to it. And the more often you get involved in feedback rounds, the easier it will be to not take them personally and filter out the necessary changes to your product.
Once I turned our strategy on feedback around, I tirelessly went out to listen to potential customers. I sent out countless of questionnaires and had people test the app. I went to beauty salons where I knew I could find representatives of my target group with print-outs of our logo, the test version of our app and further material. I also had material about our competitors and pretended I was doing independent market research. I did not tell anyone I was the founder of one of the products. That way, I got unbiased answers – brutally honest ones. But I needed to hear them to make the necessary changes.
What I just described to you is not limited to tech products. Whichever business you run, feedback of your customers is crucial. I learned from this very first experience that I need to involve potential customers as early as possible. For every project I run, I have regular milestones where I check with the target group. This allows me to be flexible and adjust small things very early on. In the long run, it saves time and money. Small flaws can turn into big obstacles quickly. By applying a step-by-step approach, you can eliminate them quickly and more easily.
What is your opinion on customer feedback? When and how do you get their feedback? Please share your experience and advice here, I look forward to hearing from you!