• Natalie Markovits

Why constant customer feedback is crucial for a successful product

Customer feedback has long been recognized as crucial for helping companies to improve their products and services and brush up their customer satisfaction ratings. You design your product or service to meet customer needs, but that’s very difficult if you’re not sure exactly what they are.

Domino effect.

Time and again, brands have gone very wrong when they try to shortcut customer feedback. For example, Atari released the E.T. computer game that tried to spin-off from the movie. They rushed it out within 5 weeks without any customer consultation, and the result was a game that sold only 1.5 million copies, leaving 3.5 million to be buried in a landfill. The infamous New Coke failure also occurred because of product development processes that didn’t pay enough attention to consumer feedback.

Traditionally, companies gathered customer opinions through feedback forms and focus group meetings, but those methods are slow, cumbersome, and can incorporate bias. Today's customers respond to new releases, products, and versions at the speed of light, so a new product can flop on social media before the first customer feedback survey even hits an inbox. Consumers also have a lot less patience in our instant-reply culture. They expect that if they raise an issue about a company or a product, it will be acknowledged, addressed, and resolved immediately. They don’t expect to have to wait six months for the focus group findings to appear.

As a result, customer feedback in 2021 needs to be swift, constant, and integrated, to ensure your product or service is successful. Here are the benefits of constant customer feedback for successful products:

Support CI/CD product design

It’s typical for game companies to release a new update every week, and the pressure to get it right every time is high. Gamers have strong opinions about characters, levels, and strategy, and they won’t hesitate to express them. They’ll be quick to share on social media posts or through customer service messages if a new character is too powerful, for example, making it too easy to complete a level, or a token is too hard to find and the level is too tough to win.

When product development teams get feedback about the previous week’s level release, it helps improve their decisions for the next one. Gathering feedback in real-time through real consumer posts means developers hear it while they’re still working on the next release, so they can incorporate consumer comments immediately and make sure they’re keeping players happy.

Troubleshoot small issues before they torpedo the entire product

The best way to deal with a crisis is to stop one from developing. It’s not like you can prevent things from ever going wrong, but stepping in quickly to deal with small issues stops them from snowballing into a disaster.

For example, imagine a bank releases a new personal banking feature in its app. The UI is confusing and people can’t work out how to use it, so they open tickets with the customer support agents. The bank’s customer service is outsourced to agents scattered around the world who can’t see that other agents also have tickets open on the same topic, so it takes a while before anyone realizes that there’s a flood of complaints about the new UI.

By the time someone notices and responds, the problem has already been going on for days. Engineers work quickly to fix the issue within 24 hours, but it’s too late; the bank has lots of negative customer satisfaction reviews, and now has a reputation for being a poor option for digital banking.

Ensuring that all customer service tickets are coordinated and interpreted in a central system enables that even if your agents are widely dispersed, a unified message can be heard by the company.

Similar issues could take place with any product or service. Without customer feedback, you might see people avoiding your feature or simply leaving your site, but you won’t know why. It could take days to discover there’s anything wrong, and weeks to send out feedback forms to find out why, while you lose customers to your competitors.

Instead, track responses to changes, features, and tweaks in real-time. You can find out that there’s a problem and discover what’s causing it within a few hours; send out messaging about it to reassure customers immediately; and resolve the entire thing within a few days, with no long-term harm to your reputation or your customer base.

Hear the problems they aren’t telling you

Both digitally native vertical brands (DNVB) and legacy retailers that add an online presence to their offline stores need to track audience reaction to changes they make to their digital products, like collections and payment methods, including cart and checkout processes.

people pointing at a computer screen

These aren’t always easy to spot. Bear in mind that you won’t always be tagged on social media posts, and complaints and conversations don’t always take place on your community forum. Additionally, it’s not always easy to quantify what’s motivating a customer’s change in attitude towards your brand, even when you have the customer feedback data. Brick and mortar retailers may be used to gathering customer satisfaction ratings in-store, but now that they need to tap into the huge volume of online conversation, they need different tools.

For example, what if an online retail outlet changes the payment methods it offers, and a bug doesn’t allow payment to go through? Consumers tend to complain on social media first, to see if it’s just their credit card or account that’s causing hassle before they open a customer support ticket.

Posts like “I couldn’t pay at X store today, anyone else have the same problem?” might not tag you, which means a standard social media monitoring solution won’t pick up on it. But when you see customer reactions immediately on the open web, you can fix the issues faster.

Get it right first time

The best way to keep customer satisfaction high is to launch features, products, versions, updates, etc. that are exactly what your customers are looking for, before they tell you so. That’s far from easy; your product development team needs a deep understanding of customer needs to produce the right item at the right time.

The hardest part is that customer needs don't stand still, they are always developing in new directions. To keep on top of them, you need to track not just conversations about your brand and product, but about your niche, vertical, industry, and more. You need to understand customer expectations, preferences, and aversions in real-time, by gathering and deeply mining customer feedback on all review sites, communities, and online forums.

Real-time customer feedback is the gift that keeps on giving

There’s almost no end to the benefits of gathering customer feedback in real-time from all your channels. It feeds into your product development process, helps improve your customer support, avoids PR disasters, and arms you with insight into customer needs so you can keep customer satisfaction levels high.

How Affogata can help

Affogata’s AI-powered engine gathers millions of data points from across the open web, including app stores, community forums, review sites, social media and more. It picks up on every conversation that relates to your brand, product, or niche, even when you’re not tagged and even when they take place on non-owned channels.

Affogata offers fully objective data that draws on millions of data points, making the conclusions less biased and more trustworthy than a small, selected focus group that might not be truly representative of your customer base. With this wealth of data, you can understand the voice of the customer and their experience through each step of the customer journey.

Once you gather the data, you can use filters to search the platform for sub-topics, such as “everyone talking about my company + our new version,” to see specific sentiment about new releases and track how product changes affect your audience’s experience. Setting keywords like “payment failed” provides you with alerts as soon as this issue pops up in brand mentions, helping you discover problems or bugs immediately.

You can also use Affogata to search your competitors’ public information and find out what is working - or lacking - in your competitor’s offering to add to your understanding of customer needs.

Additionally, Affogata contains business intelligence tools which convert the mass of big customer data into actionable insights, so you can identify customer needs, track changes in the customer experience, and uncover the why behind changes in customer sentiment.

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