What are some ways we can get unbiased customer feedback to validate product ideas?

Getting customer feedback on product ideas can be a double edge sword. If you’re not asking the right questions, this process can create more headaches than it alleviates. The secret to valuable unbiased feedback lies in how the questions are asked. Here are a few simple tips that should yield more useful customer feedback.

Henry Ford said it best. “If we had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sound familiar? Most product companies are guilty of asking customers leading questions to validate something they’ve already decided to do. The “wouldn’t it be great if…” question by itself just gives you a false sense of security.

The more appropriate question to ask is, “What are you trying to accomplish and why,” even if the answer seems obvious. Open ended questions will get to the root of a problem and “why” it’s so important to solve. Not only do the open ended questions help define the complete business scenario, they also give your designers the freedom to be creative with the solutions. In many cases, a comprehensive list of features are a far more complex solution than really necessary.

Revert Back to Childhood

Children by nature ask a lot of questions, and when they don’t get an answer that makes sense (to them), they keep asking “why” until they get an answer they’re satisfied with. Since most of our customers tell us what they want long before we ask, it would help our cause to ask “why” until we have a complete picture of each business scenario to be addressed.

Don’t Stop At “What” & “Why”

Understanding “what and why” is a critical first step, but don’t stop there. Continue to involve customers in product design by validating “how” new features should work. This continued involvement will greatly enhance product usability and your customer feedback efforts will pay handsome dividends. Otherwise, your efforts will be all for naught, and you’ll end up either redesigning features over and over, or living with yet another wart on your product that detracts from its marketability and customer satisfaction.

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