I’ve been involved in many launches. Launches of web sites, mostly, but launches of other things, too, like products or new brands or companies. Launches are exciting. People work very, very hard for much longer than any customer most likely realizes.
Launches have a lot of moving parts. There are lawyers worrying, creatives working on design, writers developing content, technologists pushing the limit of technology, marketers determining launch awareness strategies, analysts yapping about key performance metrics, and some poor project manager doing her best to make all those teams work together. Not to mention about 1.1 billion other tiny make-or-break details.
Sometimes I’m brought in to review the almost-launched site/product/idea. While I love helping at this stage, I always feel a little bad when I inevitably silence the room with a simple question.
“What do you your current customers think about it?”
Crickets. Awkward glances. Someone shaking his or her head like, “I knew it.”
The unavoidable truth is they haven’t been asked. They didn’t include their customers in those zillion details. They just assumed. And sometimes we luck out! We create something our customers love. But sometimes we just tick ’em off.
There are easy ways to get your customers involved. Have you tried? Do you know what your customers think? Before you let go of “your baby” and hope for the best, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Here are a few ways to do it:
1. Ask them.
While this seems deceptively simple, it is rarely done. It doesn’t take an expensive, time-consuming survey. Just hang out with your customers. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America make it a point to do so on a regular basis. Or, using social media, throw out the question and get some opinions from the crowd.
2. Observe their opinions while online, on the phone, or at your store.
Paco Underhill has done some excellent research on why and how we behave as consumers. His book, Why We Buy, is one I highly recommend to understand how to observe and act on customer behavior for real.
3. Conduct usability tests.
There is resistance to this for many reasons, but the two reasons I hear most often are:
- We didn’t have that in our timeline.
- It is too pricey and takes too long.
Allow me to overcome those objections. It should be in the timeline, but rarely is. But it really should be. And you’ll pay for it later. You’ll have rework or broken experiences and need to throw money at the problem instead of lining up the customer expectations with the experience first.
As for being too pricey, there are different levels for usability and user experience testing. For instance, get your favorite customers to try to achieve something familiar on the “new” web site. Ask for their feedback. Offer them a small perk – reward points or a gift card – for their time. Or hang out in the store with a laptop. Ask customers in the store to check out the new site. What do they like or not like?
It may not be scientific, but it’ll still give you valuable information.
There are many more ways to include customers in your launch. It may be your baby, but it really does take a village. Let your customers participate and they’ll feel included and rewarded.
What are you doing to include your customers?