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PHOTO: Aziz Acharki | unsplash

Every business, whether it operates in digital goods, ecommerce or B2B services, has customer experience pain points. And it’s natural to want to quickly jump to fix whatever the perceived “wrong” may be, especially for a small business or a new start-up.

I start every morning by looking at customer feedback, and it can lead to quick iterative actions for us at ActiveCampaign. Part of reviewing feedback is taking time to look at the bigger picture, to examine the data and figure out a way to balance customer feedback and analytics against the product roadmap. While adjustments might be needed, taking a more measured approach guarantees you’re serving the majority of your customers and staying on a path to growth.

Here are three keys to finding the right balance in delivering a human-centered customer experience.

1. Collect Feedback by Meeting Customers Where They Are

In order to deliver on a customer-centric approach, businesses must accurately track how their team and their product address common patterns and requests. Customer feedback can be invaluable for informing your future product roadmap, giving you a starting point for what the customer needs. Surprisingly, as many as 95% of business ideas fail (pdf) because the business couldn’t agree on what the customer need even is, let alone how to meet it.

Don’t let that happen to you. Start by mining your own data to identify customer needs in three ways:

  • Read actual digital feedback, not summaries. Understand the tone of what you read. Examine email metrics, like open and click-through behavior and page visits, to see how customers are interacting with your company. Read the live chat logs to understand common issues and conduct surveys to source input. Then, let your mind find the commonalities.
  • Gather community research. See what your customers are saying about your products through online reviews and on social media. We recommend focusing on 3-star reviews because they tend to be more insightful and detailed than 5-star or 1-star.
  • Conduct regular customer interviews. It’s extremely important to simply ask customers what they need. Be sure to ask the right questions, focusing on their pain points and outcomes rather than product features. The goal is to find out if the product does the job it’s intended to do.

Remember that even negative feedback and reviews can inform your strategy. For example, if it’s clear that customers don’t understand a particular process, your team can create a “how to” video to resolve the problem. Or you might consider revising the process to make it more automated and seamless, eliminating the hurdle altogether.

Related Article: Customer Feedback: A Goldmine in Your Midst

2. Be Data-Informed, But Not Data-Controlled

Businesses are overwhelmed with data. The promise of big data has programmed many to constantly clamor for more, regardless of whether it’s useful or pertinent. Data doesn’t always tell the whole story, and at times, it can be misleading. Good data should be:

  • Responsive, providing information that helps you make smart decisions.
  • Actionable, allowing you to actually craft a plan to use it.
  • Narrative-driven, following the story of your business journey alongside that of your customers.

Using that test, you may find that once you have the data, you’ll need to test a hypothesis to determine if the result is legitimate or if there’s some underlying influence. For example, if your data shows low utilization of a feature once it’s installed, it could be because it’s too hard to set up, or customers are running into a common obstacle during implementation.

Finally, don’t let the data override all other inputs. You should still trust your and your teams’ instincts about customer needs, instead of blindly following the data. It’s important for the product team to have a position and defend it (within reason). There should always be some innovation that can’t be fully supported by data alone. This means that you’re pushing the boundaries of what is known and can be proven.

Related Article: Is Your Company Data-Driven or Data-Informed?

3. Establish Your Product Priorities

Settle on a list of priorities informed by the stakeholder feedback and data you’ve gathered. Who will you focus on serving? Where is the greatest potential? Will you focus on filling a singular gap or try to build an all-things-to-all-customers solution?

This way, when opportunities arise to build a product responsive to specific customer needs, you can use this as a guide to decide if it’s a change worth altering the roadmap or building a bespoke solution. How far will it derail other priorities? Is it a change that will serve the vast majority of customers? Even if the customer is willing to pay dearly for a custom solution, will it become a distraction for your team that detracts from the core product?

In a customer-centric approach, it’s natural to want to try to solve every customer's problem, and it’s true that going above and beyond to make customers feel valued is extremely important. But successful companies don’t get that way by chasing every single whim. They get there by thoroughly understanding their customers’ pain points and delivering products to solve them.

Businesses that can learn to balance customer feedback and analytics alongside their product roadmap have a solid understanding of who they are — and who they want to be — as a company, along with the courage to remain committed to their core value proposition even when reading customer reviews.

Related Article: Looking for Your Next Big Idea? Ask Your Customers — And Really Listen