A Guide to Turning Your Customers Into Your Product Designers

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January 13, 2021 4 min read

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You probably have people who specialize in design on your payroll. But it’s just as important to turn your customers into product designers. Doing this well can have a lasting influence on the relationship and loyalty they have with you. So, how do you shift them from reactive buyers to invested creators?

Related: 3 Strategies to Optimize Innovative Product Development

1. Involve them from the beginning

All too often, company executives start with or support ideas they think are good but leave the customer out. The focus is commonly on whether companies can bring a product to market instead of whether they should.

Involving your customers from the very beginning of product development means that you select only the projects that they’d like to pay for. It also ensures the initial designs are built around the customers’ real pain points and ways of behaving. It puts their end goals at the forefront so your products help customers achieve a higher quality of life. This ability to serve the customer is the hallmark of true business success.

2. Get product feedback through the entire customer journey

To gauge how a product is going to perform and smooth out hurdles to purchase and use, you need feedback from buyers through the entire customer journey. Their continued input helps you see not only how to improve the design itself but also how to improve other areas related to the larger experience with the product, such as customer support or marketing. It can give you big picture insights about other related issues you could solve for the customer down the road, as well. 

3. Create a customer advisory board

A customer advisory board means real users for your product get a regular chance to meet with you and talk about development. The people on this type of board usually also have business experience. Many are executives, so they can provide both product feedback and feedback about your operations and market.

4. Test as much as you can

There is, of course, a point where you have to decide a product is “finished” and start selling. But the more your customers get to interact with the product, the more they can figure out where there’s still friction in the user experience and weed out any bugs. More interaction can also increase their feelings of being invested in what you’re doing. From this standpoint, there can never be enough testing.

5. Close the feedback loop

No one likes to feel like others are ignoring what they think or have to say — your customers included. It’s not enough to just give people a way to offer feedback to you. You also need to get back to your customers and communicate the changes you made to the product based on their feedback. When customers can see that you are taking their feedback seriously, they’ll feel like they have much more of an influence on the development of the product. 

6. Encourage and use ratings and reviews

Ratings and reviews are important first because they offer simple ways to see what people think of your product and get ideas for improving it. But they are also enormously valuable in that customers will trust other customers. If you can get buyers to speak well of the product overall, potential customers will trust those insights and decide to buy, too. The more buyers know about you, the more of a base you have that can help you design in the future.

7. Measure important customer KPIs

Examples of critical key performance indicators include your customer effort score, overall satisfaction, and net promoter score. Using these metrics tells you how well people are receiving the product and how likely it is they’ll recommend it to others. It can reveal whether there’s a problem with the product and exactly where it is, even if customers have trouble verbalizing the issue directly. It can identify trends and show how thinking and needs for the product vary for different groups, as well. 

Related: Why Business Leaders Need to Take Data Seriously in 2021

Customers are the people who best understand what a product should be and what it should do. By making them a core part of your design process, you set yourself up to provide better items that can build a bigger, stronger base. Start thinking of your buyers as designers and invite them to work with you if you truly want a lasting, innovative brand.

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