Sometimes We Just Need to Ask Our Customers What They Want

by Joanna Pineda Posted on May 14, 2009

People talking All day long, I sit in meetings where my staff, clients and I try to intuit what customers and members want.  We look at usage reports, search logs, customer feedback forms, guestbook entries, and survey results.  All of these sources give us insight into what customers do, seek and want.  But after conducting a focus group for a client this evening, I’m reminded that we need regular face time with our customers and we need to just ask them what they want.

Tonight’s focus group was amazing.  Nearly two dozen people gave up two hours of their day to discuss why they are members of an organization, what they like about the Web site, and what would make their jobs easier.   Some of the ideas were mind-blowingly simple, while others were flat out brilliant.  If half of the product ideas prove economically feasible, this organization has a product road map for the next year.

Speaking of product road maps, I am in the habit of calling a couple of customers after each release of our association management software, MatrixMaxx.  I call to check-in, get feedback on new features, and, most importantly, ask them for  the one thing they would like to see in a future release.  For the 9.1 release, the suggestions were all spot on, some were so easy to implement we wondered why we hadn’t done the work earlier, and some proved to be blockbusters.

But what do you do when you have zillions of customers and you get a flood of customer requests on a regular basis?  Google Moderator allows communities to post suggestions/questions and then vote on all ideas submitted.  President Obama used Google Moderator to accept questions for an electronic town hall meeting; citizens submitted and then ranked questions; the President answered the most popular questions.

Dell’s IdeaStorm allows customers to submit and rank suggestions to the company. The most popular idea as of tonight is to allow consumers to purchase a computer without an operating system.  Presumably, Dell will act on the most popular ideas.  Both IdeaStorm and Google Moderator are terrific ways to capture, validate and rank customer desires. I’m thinking of using Google Moderator to allow customers of MatrixMaxx to suggest and rank ideas for future releases.

How about you?  How do you solicit direct feedback from your customers? And how can you use a tool like Google Moderator to generate user feedback and validate the ideas via voting from the community?

2 replies on “Sometimes We Just Need to Ask Our Customers What They Want”

Thanks fro introducing me to Goggle Moderator. I am actually looking for a moderation application that I can brand, but GM is a good starting point. I find you blog very helpful

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