One of the most important things you can do as a product designer is include customer feedback in your business thinking. I’m not talking about customer satisfaction surveys (though those are important too). I’m talking about impressions of your brand and your product. You can solicit that feedback through conversations, questionnaires and surveys, and by sifting through online comments and discussions.
Of course, you must know the difference between your core customers and the rest of the customers! If your core customers come to you because of your design vision, your brilliant use of materials, and your extremely high craftsmanship, then they probably don’t worry so much about your price. So what do you about price complaints? As long as your core customers demonstrate satisfaction with your value, complaints about price go in the interesting-but-not-allowed-to-change-my-strategy pile. Likewise, if you design using unusual materials or quirky craft methods and you’ve found a client base that loves your approach, then when you get suggestions from customers to make your look more mainstream, you’ll let those comments slide on by.
Once you’ve clarified who your core client is, what types of questions can you ask them? Which questions will elicit the type of feedback that helps you learn more, refine your brand messages, and intensify your customer relationships? Here are a few questions to help you get those creative juices flowing. Once you get the feel for asking customer questions, you’ll come up with plenty more of your own!
The first approach is to ask direct questions. These include:
- What do you think of our product value?
- How would you describe our products?
- Why do you buy our products?
- What other products would you like to see from us?
- How do you feel about our product quality?
- What do you think our brand is about?
- How would you describe our company?
- How would you describe our service?
- How would you describe the personality of our company based on your experiences?
Asking direct questions can yield terrific, specific responses, but you’ll find that only the customers most familiar with and attached to your brand will be giving those answers. If you want to get more insight from the people you want to sell to, but with whom you have not yet formed a strong attachment, you may need to ask questions that provide more guidance and structure. Here are some multiple choice examples to consider.
If you had to describe the value of my (products), which phrase below would best describe it? Even if you want to choose more than one, force yourself to choose the best!
- This (product) makes me feel beautiful
- This (product) makes me feel unique
- This (product) makes me feel special
- This (product) makes me feel virtuous
- This (product) makes me feel rich
- (this list can include any adjectives, so fit the adjectives to the likely range of feelings evoked by your product offering)
How would you describe the pricing of my products?
- Just about right
- A little high, but worth it
- A little high, so I have to really think about it
- High, so I avoid it
- You could probably charge more and I’d still buy it (don’t be shocked – some customers will actually choose this answer!)
Why do you buy our products? (allow them to choose more than one of these)
- Actually, I’ve only bought one thing, because it just caught my eye
- Your product always seems to be in the right place at the right time
- I like to have more than one item from designers I like
- Your product just suits my personality
- Your product suits my style
- I like the status I get from wearing/buying your product
How would you describe my brand?
- I don’t really notice a brand. I just notice the styles
- Your brand is all over the place - I'm not sure what to think
- Sometimes I think your brand stands for something, but then it shifts or changes
- I think your brand is about (fill in the blank here – for whatever your brand REALLY stands for)
- I think your brand is about (fill in the blank here – something similar to what you want your brand to stand for but not quite right)
- I think your brand is about (fill in the blank here – something that really isn’t your brand)
How would you describe the personality of our company based on your experiences so far? Choose as many as you think fit.
That’s a lot of questions, right? Now how do you ask them?
Unless you’re buying your customer an expensive meal and you have advance agreement that you will be asking for input about your company, you’re not going to get away with asking these all at once. Rather, look for opportunities to ask them one-at-a-time. You can do this as a social media post, a pop-up on your website, or as a one-question-survey email follow-up to a purchase. And as I mentioned earlier, your social media conversations and comments are a treasure-trove of insights. Comb through them looking specifically for clues to how your customers would answer these questions based on the things they say.
If you are very, very curious about the way your customers view your company and your product offering, you will gain important insights into whether (or not) you are making the impressions you want to make.