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I just recently read the post Why You Should NEVER Listen to Your Customers on Mark Cuban’s Weblog and I have a few thoughts on the subject. First, what a provocative title! For all the bloggers out there, that’s how you write titles people will be forced to click on. Well done Mark! Second, while I agree that blindly following customers requests can be a black hole in product innovation, I also think listening to customers can go way beyond just what is broke and lead you to develop important improvements for the future.
As a recruitment marketing software company, we are always looking to improve our product to make it more valuable to recruiters and are continually asking for feedback from our clients. While we listen to every piece of feedback, we don’t incorporate all of it into our product but sift through it to find the best innovations that we can include in our product.
We have a set of rules we live by when it comes to soliciting this feedback. Here they are:
1) Determine Your Vision – The first thing we do every quarter is take a look at what our product is today and what we want it to be tomorrow. We list out all the cool innovations that we can add to it and rank them giving us baseline of everything we can do and what we think is most crucial to get done. This is when you should listen to customer feedback and balance it with the cool innovations you know your clients will love. (We actually have an ongoing list for product improvements that we collaborate on and add to whenever we receive great feedback from a client.)
2) Get to the Why? – A good deal of the feedback we receive is “You should add this” type comments. The first question we ask is “Why will that help you do your job better?” This allows us to understand the underlying reason behind why this product feature is needed not only helping us understand the feature that is needed but allowing us to come up with better features on our own that can help solve this problem.
3) Same story, Different Sources – A bunch of different feedback from numerous people is one thing. But the same feedback from numerous people, that’s a problem (and an opportunity). Make sure to listen for hot topics or features that your clients are clamoring for. Because if multiple people are asking for it, more often than not it’s a gap in the market that is not being capitalized on yet.
4) Not all feedback is worth the same – The biggest thing is identifying the clients or individuals that you trust. These sources not only provide the best ideas but also can be a soundboard for you to test other ideas you have in your hopper. Try and identify those early as they are invaluable.
These rules don’t just apply to making a product better for customers but can relate to almost any process or initiative including recruiting. Always be on the look-out for interesting thoughts and solicit feedback from candidates about your recruiting process, whether it’s during the process or during interviews. Be sure to listen but reserve the right to make your own decisions about the future. Ultimately, you are the final decision-maker!