Some of the best feedback businesses will ever receive originates from customer support interactions. While receiving demands can be exciting, how does a business translate a demand into a product or service innovation for all customers to use? Let’s go through the journey of demands born from customer support interactions and how they can translate into product/service innovation.
How demands are born from customer support interactions
In business-to-business (B2B), it’s quite common to receive various demands including customisations and feature requests via your support interactions with customers. Demands usually occur when a customer is looking to accomplish something that isn’t currently possible and they reach out to customer support to see if a solution can be created. There are two categories for these demands; those that are unique to the company making the request and therefore may not be realistic, and those that are common pain points for many customers. Each demand must be assessed in a slightly different manner.
For custom demands, or those that are applicable to a specific customer, you need to assess the urgency of the demand. There is a big difference between a want and a need, and customers don’t always clearly define the severity. It’s also important to look at the repercussions of NOT implementing the demand – if it comes from a potential customer, is the request a deal-breaker? If an existing customer, is it enough to make them abandon you? In both cases the value of the account will come into play. Although we’d all love to implement every idea from every customer, this isn’t a good business strategy. To be successful in the long run, you must focus on your niche area of expertise and make decisions on whether or not to meet a demand based on how well it fits with your business strategy.
For innovative ideas that address a pain point for multiple customers or industries, you need to assess cost versus potential impact. Look at how many customers can benefit, what would their business impact be, and how could it impact future sales. You also need to take into account whether the idea is in line with your business model and purpose.
Most B2B companies don’t have endless budgets, so you have to focus on being great at what you can and make your customers feel important. Evaluate all your options and determine the best “bang for your buck” so you can more efficiently capitalise on demands born from customer support interactions.
How to identify and prioritise demands
It’s important to evaluate and understand all customer demands at a high-level and take them seriously. For example, we utilise a feature called “Related Tickets” within our own support software to easily understand common demands. We can also look at key information including customer revenue and customer longevity.
From here, we take innovative ideas and consider the fit with our overall implementation plans and strategy for our product or service. Here are a few things we look at…
- Risk/reward factor – A request may be popular or urgent but require a lot of resources and upkeep. It’s important to look at how meeting one demand could create other related demands in the future.
- Customer polls – If you have five demands and you’re having trouble prioritising, ask a sample of your customers to rank these demands in importance. Use the information you receive, in conjunction with other data, to help with the planning and evolution of your product or service.
- Impact on new business – It’s always important to understand if a demand is going to be marketable or if it’s only relevant to existing customers. Demands that will be a feather in the cap of your sales team should always get an incremental boost in priority.
- Applicable industry research – If possible, see how the industry has reacted to similar demands in the past. Sometimes wide-scale industry reports are available and will have ratings of importance for common demands both now and in the future.
How to translate demands into product or service innovation
Communicate customer involvement publicly – For example, when implementing a customer-sourced feature, make sure to highlight that your innovation was inspired by customer feedback. Corporate websites, email, and social media are all good communication channels. This lets your customers know their voice matters in guiding the future of your business. You can also make note of who specifically had the idea and reach out to them one-on-one to let them know that it has been implemented. On-site visits, especially with larger customers, are great for these private but impactful conversations.
Use demands to strengthen business relationships – Be vocal when you meet a demand because doing so can go a long way in driving customer loyalty. It shows customers you are invested in improving your product or service so they can be even more successful with their business. With this said, make sure if you went “above and beyond” you politely emphasise that it’s not something the customer should expect every time, especially if there was minimal value to your own long-term business strategy.
Consider alternatives or an iteration for unrealistic demands – When a customer makes a specific request that is only beneficial to their company, or a small subset of your customers, don’t just dismiss it entirely. There may be a gem hidden within the idea that could be altered to meet a need for a larger group of customers, or even expand your target market to new industries or uses.
In short, demands come to life through customer support innovation by taking a thought or idea about a product or service that is currently impossible and actually making it possible. The journey of innovating based on demands is complex and has numerous considerations, but in the end these demands lead to better products, better services, and better customers.
Robert C. Johnson, co-founder and CEO, TeamSupport.com
Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak