How customer experience is influencing product development

Businesses need to continuously work with their clients and take feedback which will eventually result in better products

Updated: Jun 22, 2017 06:01:44 PM UTC
Photo: Shutterstock

Every day, 3.5 billion search queries are made on Google, nearly 1.09 billion people log on to Facebook and 30,000-plus new websites are created. It's clear that digital channels are often preferred by customers for researching, selecting and transacting with brands. In addition, customers today are increasingly vocal and have multiple options to voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, with many frequently turning to digital and social channels to express themselves.

Smart businesses are using this constant stream of customer feedback to their advantage. Even before they launch a product, modern marketers are tracking consumer voices, analysing data and incorporating the inputs into new product designs. Customer feedback has allowed numerous ground-breaking companies to find a solution to a market need, even before the consumers themselves are aware of that need.

For any business, there are multiple touch points between the customer and their brand, more so now than ever before. Smart businesses understand that the customer experience is critical for their competitive differentiation and the fact that it has to be deployed across the entire value chain. Customer experience at each touch point, whether physical or digital, is an opportunity to gain feedback directly or indirectly and help provide continuous inputs for agile product development. In fact, the entire lifecycle of the product is fuelled by customer data. R&D teams use the feedback gained for broad product or solution direction, product teams then develop the product, and the marketing team builds the messaging to position it in the target markets. Once the product is sold, the customer goes through the after-sales experience where smart businesses ensure that they channel this feedback into R&D and product engineering, to continuously improve and differentiate from the competition, thus starting the chain all over again.

Before Purchase When a prospective customer begins to research a product, more often than not, this research begins online. The data resulting from research conducted on web pages, blogs, feedback sections, and all activities explored by the prospect on the product’s website, can be acquired and analysed within the context of their profile and subsequently used by smart businesses to retarget and acquire the customer. Analytics also allows us to learn how well that digital channel presents itself to the prospect with all the information required by him to take a decision. Integrated strategies involving analytics, visitor profiling, content marketing, social presence, search engine optimisation, and many other digital techniques can be leveraged to ensure that the prospect customer who is searching for similar products will be led to the specific digital channel of a company.

By positioning the right content back to the prospect, there is a more definite likelihood that the product will be purchased.

After Purchase
Once the product is purchased, customers begin the product-use journey, and along the way, to enhance their experience, they interact with various channels of the company. For example, resources), product expert communities, and social media, are often visited. It's very important for a company to ensure that the customer receives a seamless experience through these support channels, and that the performance of each of these channels is captured and analysed both individually and as a whole. Using new-age digital channels such as online FAQs, Twitter, Facebook, and other digital communities and blogs, along with inputs from the call centre, businesses are able to gather and analyse information to reveal ways to improve key aspects of the business. The result is that a better understanding of common customer challenges has been gained. These insights can then be communicated back to R&D and product engineering for future product updates, more relevant training of customer support staff, and to fine-tune the digital experience.

Analytics has an extraordinary role to play. The advantage, however, doesn't come from merely collecting the data from customers. The insights drawn from them and how the feedback is acted upon is what makes the real difference. A new and powerful trend being observed in the market is the designing of products with customer experience inputs embedded throughout the entire development process.

Organisations are aiming to create unique customer views to better understand customer tonality. With a presence in multiple channels – offline retail, online, social media, ecommerce - organisations need to ensure the relevant content reaches each customer. In order to achieve this, the company needs to understand the customer’s behaviour and preferences. Creating each individual customer’s view is the biggest challenge. Personalisation is no longer enough, we are in the era of individualisation.

The retail company Adidas has deployed a unique cloud solution to capture consumer data from all its stores and matched the data with whatever purchases take place. Buying habits, both online and offline, are analysed. By taking advantage of the cloud, consumer information is more efficiently collated, and a response platform has been designed to understand buying behaviour. Through this platform, consumers are now able to interact with the brand in a more effective way, and the company uses these interactions to derive insights that can be used for further product development.

Correlating product development with customer experience
Products are developed with the motive of forging long-term customer relationships, with the goal of turning them into loyal brand advocates. A brand should be able to connect with the customer based on their preferences. An increase in customer engagement will thereby enable an increase in business. This transformative approach, combined with increasing engagement between a brand and its customers will provide better insights for product development, and as such can be used to help the business evolve.

Delivering a memorable customer experience is not an easy task. Managing interactions with prospective as well as existing customers is critical – in fact, it can make or break the relationship. It can’t be disputed that customer experience directly impacts every part of the organisation, spanning from product development, to sales, marketing, support, client services, documentation, through to operations. The fast-moving customer experience space continues to evolve. Customer experience has become a vital need for companies of all sizes, and businesses need to work with their customers to continually improve customer experience, which will ultimately lead to better products for more successful companies.

- By Pavan Chandra, Senior Sales Director – CX Applications, Oracle

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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