Getting your customers involved in product development has its advantages. For one, you increase your chances of developing targeted products with a greater rate of success. Secondly, you are able to strengthen existing relationships with your customers while creating mutual benefit.
However, there are also potential disadvantages. Customers could be disappointed with your product and its quality. If so, be prepared to take immediate steps to either fix it or recall the product for further development. Additionally, depending upon the competitiveness of your industry, you may be concerned about “leaking” information about your new product to your competitors. Disclosure and confidentiality agreements with your customers may help alleviate some of those concerns.
There are various ways to get your customers involved in the process of developing a new product, or even revamping an existing product.
1. Ask for their input – what are their views on the existing product and what would they like to see in a new one?
2. Create a User Group – set up a group comprised of customers and members of your staff who will meet to discuss issues related to quality, performance, standards, future developments, and customer concerns.
3. Test Drive – ask some of your customers to put your products to the test.
Throughout this process, it is important to remember why you are either revamping an existing product or introducing a new one. You’re doing it to meet a customer need. Unfortunately, somewhere between product development and market research, this basic fact is often lost. Therefore, by involving customers in your product development plans, you maintain your focus and ensure the success of your product because your customers are more likely to use and depend upon them.
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