In our quick-consumption, technology-driven society, how can companies differentiate themselves from the buzz? How can they provide the most benefit to customers and earn their loyalty?
Most companies approach product development from the lens of “what.” What should the product do, what will it take for it to deliver on that promise, what should it sell for, and what will compel a consumer to purchase it?
But, many companies fail to ask the “why” and “how” questions. Why would a customer want to purchase one product over another, how do customers approach making purchasing decisions, and as they engage with the product, how do they feel about it? Asking these kinds of questions gets to a very key part of successful product development – customer empathy.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” So, customer empathy is the ability to understand and be aware of the customer’s experience.
Customer empathy research goes beyond the product development or improvement, and looks into the customer’s day to day interaction with the technology, and their perceptions around it.
While product development research leads to developing the best understanding of what the tech is capable of, and how it works, customer empathy research can tell a company if the innovative tech they’re developing is what the customer wants. If you forget to keep the end-user in mind, their wants and needs may not be fulfilled by the end-product.
As companies race to market, take shortcuts in product development, and leave the consumer’s best interest and desires behind in the dust they lose out on valuable insights along the way. Statistical significance is not necessary to pivot quickly during product development, and by including customer empathy research along the way, companies are still able to keep the consumer driving the train. Rapid, small-group testing that provides enough insight to have an idea for where to go next without the sacrifice of precious weeks in the development stage, is crucial.
Rapid test and learn strategies aka the lean startup mentality keeps testing to small participant panels of 5-7 individuals, short time-frame sprints, and focuses on the customer experience, their behaviors and how can a product or service impact existing behaviors to bring out the desired results.
While testing of this variety will rarely ever achieve efficacy, it can provide valuable observations on the desirability and perception of continued use. If a participant is early into the use of product and are already losing interest, then a product is not achieving its desired benefits and it’s back to the drawing board.
Customer empathy is the best indicator of long-term success of a product or service, and by keeping the customer at the heart of product development companies can ensure higher adoption rates, better reviews, and customer loyalty.
If a customer perceives that a technology is going to deliver on its promises, rest assured you have kept them in mind. Don’t forget about your customers along the way, and when you get to the end you’ll have a product they’ll love.