How to Scale With Customer Feedback
How do amazing companies create and scale their product for growth? Would it surprise you if the answer was by using customer feedback? Wait, is that scalable?
When thinking about scaling your product and your company, the best thing to do is to start small. We need to go back to that small town community business mentality. At the turn of the last century, my great grandfather owned a neighborhood grocery store. He built his business by talking to his customers every day and discovering what they wanted and needed from him and his store. Wait, that was so twentieth century, you think. How is that scalable?
Not surprisingly, Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, scaled his business on this principle.“It’s really hard to get even 10 people to love anything, but it’s not hard if you spend a ton of time with them. If I want to make something amazing, I just spend time with you…. Early on, Joe Gebbia and I literally commuted to New York from Mountain View [to visit our Airbnb hosts in person]. We literally would knock on the doors of all of our hosts. We had their addresses and we say, ‘Knock knock. Hello. Hey, this is Brian, Joe, we’re founders and we just want to meet you.’”
That’s right, Brian went to visit his hosts in person, take pictures of their spaces, and ask about what they did or didn’t like about his product. He built his product roadmap by asking what his customers needed.
They asked one simple question. Do you have any other feedback?
“[One host] comes back with a book, it’s a binder, and he’s got dozens of pages of notes. He ends up creating a product roadmap for us: ‘We should have this, this, this, this and this.’ And we’re like, ‘Oh my god this is our roadmap because he’s the customer.’ I think that always stuck in our mind: The roadmap often exists in the minds of the users you’re designing things for.
”As Brian learned, you can’t be afraid of asking your customer what they need.
Ask For Feedback
But I can’t knock on every one of my customer’s doors, you say. It’s not scalable. If I limit my customer feedback to something manageable then the customers I do see might skew my overall decisions.
I’ll be honest, I’ve seen this happen. I worked for a company who built a multi-million dollar company based on referrals. But this kind of buddy system could cause million-dollar failures.
Why? They often relied on one customer’s opinion to create a new product. They would go all in and spend two to three million dollars developing and testing the product, but it would then launch with a fizzle. It seemed only the one customer needed the product and they didn’t need it that much.
So what is the answer?
In a Forbes article titled: “11 Founders On How To Best Listen To Customer Feedback,” Dan San, Meural said, “The truth is, everything in your head is a hypothesis that needs to be tested with raw feedback from the market you wish to serve. Without that, it may as well be useless. You need a system to capture that feedback consistently over time. This should be done at least monthly for early-stage startups and quarterly for growing startups….You want customers to talk about the product and point out its flaws and their personal experiences... You get to show you care and you can rapidly improve what you're building. It's a win-win.”
You need a system to survey all of your customers. You need to talk to your customers every day. The best way to make this sustainable is to map your customer journey and find trigger points — places in the journey when customers will most likely want to talk to you or times where you want to talk to your customers. Then every day, survey the customers who have reached one of your trigger points.
Be Patient And Pay Attention to Trends
Firas Kittneh of Amerisleep said, “Take some time to identify the most common requests customers make about existing products and recurring problems they face so that you may develop solutions that alleviate their pain points. Customers also provide a perspective that you as a business owner might not have, giving you insight into new ways to innovate and deliver happiness.”
Once You Identify Trends Prioritize them
“When we get customer feedback on new feature ideas, changes or bugs we put them into a ’need to prioritize’ pipeline. If it's something new, a new story gets created for it by our customer service team. If it's a feature we had already added to our product backlog, then it gets pulled out and labeled ‘need to reconsider,’" said Adelaida Diaz-Roa of Noma.
“Every week, our Product Manager makes sure to take all of this into consideration and adjusts our plans accordingly. Then we meet with him to get an update on those changes. Of course, not all feedback is good feedback, but we do keep tabs on those just in case someone else brings it up. Then we dig deeper and see if there's something there. We are aiming to build something our users will love and not just what we think they'll love. This process has really helped us out.”