While adding new products is vital to staying relevant and meeting the needs of your customers, it can also be a risky step for businesses. The good news is that when you use your current customers’ feedback to drive new product selection from the beginning, you’ll help guarantee new product additions are successful for your business.
"The benefits of involving customers from the get-go are tremendous. odds of offering the right product, to the right customer, at the right time and at the right cost drastically increases,” writes Steve Wilkins, a strategic consultant at PROS Holdings Inc.
WarmlyYours firmly believes that the customer knows best. In the past month, we launched two new products, the TempZone™ Floor Heating Cable (Twin) and FeelsWarm® Countertop Heaters, both were developed in direct response to customer demand and have already generated plenty of industry interest and customer sales.
“I think what's unique about WarmlyYours is that we don't sell through distribution in the U.S., so we really have the voice of the customer. It's by speaking directly with consumers that we understand the demands of the market, and then create or find products that installers may prefer, like cable, or that homeowners need to solve a problem, like cold stone counters,” explains Julia Billen, president of WarmlyYours.
Besides being the most direct link to your market, customer feedback is readily available and won’t break your budget. Below are four free ways to gather customer feedback.
1. Survey Says
Surveys today are easier than ever – and there are multiple free options to choose from. Check out free tools for online surveys such as SurveyMonkey, a free to low-cost, Web-based survey solution to gather responses with one URL by including a common link in any emails, on your website, via Twitter, Facebook, and more. With 15 question types including rating scales, multiple choice, and more, there are a lot of options for creating online surveys from scratch that will gather the customer feedback on new products you are looking for.
Also, look for a survey program that will give you the data in the form your company is looking for and can best act upon. For example, QuestionPro highlights seamless data integration with Salesforce and the ability to export data and reports to SPSS, Google Docs, Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint.
2. Apps for Installers and Sales Staff
Train your installers or sales staff to listen for and actively gather customer feedback. Put some company-wide best practices into place. Take it a step further and use free technology to help them formally and easily capture feedback right in the field. Try apps such as Survey Maker by Loop , which comes in a free version or a PRO version that is $19.99 for one month or $199.99 for one year. The app lets you create your own survey, add your brand, and then have installers or sales staff collect customer feedback right on the iPad and iPhone. Get feedback in the moment.
If you don’t want to be limited to Apple, QuickTapSurvey lets you create surveys online and collect responses using iPad and Android tablets. It is secure, customizable and, perhaps most importantly, works offline (i.e. without an Internet connection). It offers a free trial. Search for free survey apps and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the options that come up.
3. Put Social Media To Work For You
You can connect your surveys to social media by embedding common links in your tweets and posts. Additionally, social media has simple options for collecting feedback such as posing questions as status updates and tweets and using built–in question / poll options on Facebook.
With more than 70 million users, Pinterest remains the fastest-growing single social network, so now is the time to plan ways to tap into customer feedback from the site, which is free to join and use. More homeowners are utilizing sites such as Pinterest for home renovation and upgrade inspiration. When you sign in and check out what people are saying yourself, you can be up-to-date on the content and trends that are inspiring your customers. In “30 Reasons to Market Your Business on Pinterest in 2014,” AllBusiness Experts report 70 percent of Pinterest users are using the site to “get inspiration on what to buy.” When you spend time on the site you’ll see developing trends as they start to gain traction and won’t be caught by surprise. In addition to passively absorbing information, you can begin to actively collect it from your customers and inspire trends by joining and creating your company’s own account and adding Pinterest Boards to collect photos, inspiration, and new product ideas from your customers. Check out WarmlyYours’ Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/warmlyyours
Industry-specific groups or specialized social media outlets are a great way to interact with informed customers who know what they want. For home remodeling and décor, Houzz.com provides a great way to track current trends and where customer interest lies. Houzz.com is a key part of our social media strategy, and WarmlyYours was recently named the Best of Houzz for customer satisfaction.
4. Conversations Are Free
Asking questions whenever you interact with your customers is the quickest method to gather free feedback. You can keep this very informal, but it is more effective when some basic principles are put in place. Formalize the process by choosing exact questions to ask or instructing your staff on when to ask for new product suggestions. To increase effectiveness, create specific methods for your staff to share the information, so it isn’t lost in the hustle and bustle of daily work. The key is to intentionally capture and share the information.
At WarmlyYours, customer service is top priority, so we naturally engage with our customers through regular follow-up calls or inquiries to customer service and our 24/7 installation and technical support. In addition to responding to the customer’s immediate concerns, we find these to be great opportunities to learn what we can do to expand our service or product offerings to better meet our clients’ needs in the future.
There are more ways than ever to collect feedback from your customers, and it is well worth the effort. In addition to helping guarantee the success of new product additions and keeping your company relevant, actively reaching out for customer feedback deepens the relationships you have with current customers, who generally appreciate being heard. That may be the most important reason of all to reach out for customer feedback on new products using all the free, easy options available today.