No one really complained about the zipper. So it remained mostly unchanged from 1893, when Whitcomb Judson, inventor of the pneumatic street railway, introduced it at the Chicago World’s Fair.
That is, until Scott Peters saw his uncle, Dave Peters, struggling with his zipper.
Dave has myotonic dystrophy, which degrades muscle strength and coordination. So Scott created a zipper that uses magnets to snap together at the bottom easily, with one hand.
There are three ways to improve a product or feature. You can change it so customers use it more often, so more people use it, or both. Scott definitely made the zipper usable to more people, and possibly made them want to use it more.
Sometimes customer service can feel adversarial. No one likes to hear that their baby is ugly, or doesn’t work right. But when we start to empathize with struggling customers instead of fighting with them, we can work together to make products better.
So how do you work with your customers to improve your zipper?
1. Get your tech right.
The first thing you want to do is make sure your tech is on point. Can people offer feedback from all the popular sources? At a minimum, you want a customer service form on your website. This needs to be easily accessible via mobile as well as desktop. You also want a Twitter and Facebook account people can use to reach out.
Setting up a customer service email address as well is not a bad idea. Nor is providing a phone number, forums, and live chat options.
2. Ask for input.
Your customers have thoughts on your product. If someone can see a way to improve something as basic as the zipper, best believe your users are seeing a million ways for you to make your product better.
If you’re not getting these thoughts, and you have the necessary channels set up for users to offer them, it may be because you’re not asking. Opportunities to request feedback abound. Ask for it on every page of your website. Ask for it during every customer service interaction. Ask for it on your contact form.
Make sure you’re asking the right questions as well. As the Intercom Blog points out, if you ask your customers if they’d like a feature, they’ll say yes. “It’s a one-way ‘something or nothing’ offer. They haven’t had to make a trade-off between competing priorities. This leads to customers saying they want stuff that they don’t really want.”
Instead, ask whether customers would prefer stronger, faster, or lighter.
3. Gather it up.
Make sure your help desk software is storing customer feedback from disparate sources in an easily searched and organized database.
You need to be able to find patterns in the data, features people are asking for again and again, likely with different wording.
Help desk software UserVoice will automatically organize, rank, and process suggestions from users on how to improve your product. It can eliminate hundreds of versions of the same suggestion spelled or worded slightly differently.
4. Tell a story
It’s not always easy. Especially when valuable feedback comes from complaining, angry customers.
“If we want to make better products,” a recent Fast Company Design article explained, “we need to establish a round table for solving problems, not high ground to battle over.”
While the piece is on agency/client relationships, the advice applies as easily to customer/company relationships. “Every person on an agency’s side of the table has to be actively listening and assuming a level of validity to the ideas the client is putting forward.”
It would have been easy for the Land of Nod, a children’s furniture company, to argue with or ignore customer complaints about its highest-rated product, a play table. While people loved it, with a 90% saying they’d recommend it to a friend and an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, some customers let the company know that the tabletop scratched easily.
Not only did the Land of Nod re-engineer the table with harder wood, but they sent the engaged customers who let them know about the defect the new table, free of charge.
5. Map your options
Together Dave and his mother Nancy, an occupational therapist, spent six years developing more than 100 prototypes before they landed on the design that Under Armour would later incorporate into their jackets.
Finally they landed on a winner. Good Housekeeping found it to be as easy to use as Under Armour claims. “The magnet automatically locked the two sides into place with minimal effort. You may need to hold the jacket down with one hand to get the zipper moving with the other, but it doesn’t require much effort. We also tried it with a bulky pair of gloves, and it still worked just as easily. Bottom line: You might still need two hands, but the MagZip really does make zipping up a jacket a whole lot easier.”
Maybe your customers want a new table or a new zipper. The only way to know for sure is to test.
Once you have gathered customer feedback, and found some patterns, then you can start testing different solutions to find which meet your customers’ needs.
Your dissatisfied customers are your greatest assets, provided you know how to use them. Turning unhappy campers into brand ambassadors is as simple as following these five steps:
- Get your tech right.
- Ask for input.
- Gather it up.
- Tell a story.
- Map your options.
Empathizing with struggling customers and using their feedback to make your products better can get you a better table, zipper, and company.
How do you incorporate user feedback into your product improvement decisions? Does your software store that kind of data in an easily searched database? Let us know in the comments!
Images by Abby Kahler
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