Step four in our series “Ten Steps to Drive a Connected Product Program,” focuses on gathering feedback.
- While end-users are the ultimate customers, they don’t drive the first phase of a connected product program — your internal stakeholders do.
- Adopt sound internal communication practices. Partner with marketing to ensure communications are ongoing and frequent with built-in feedback loops.
- Empower internal teams to capture information from external sources. Use the front-line; they are closer to the end-user than any market research ever could be.
In business, it all starts with the customer, and listening to them separates good from great companies. The reality is that most executives focus on customer activities that are external to the company. (And we’re not arguing against that tenet.) But while external customers are the ultimate end-users, they don’t drive the first phase of a connected product program. Employees do.
Consider treating your internal and external stakeholders in the same manner — as highly regarded, valued customers. The idea of viewing your colleagues through this lens may seem different, but it’s a very effective way of shepherding your project through its launch, and ensuring its sustainability. Programs developed with early “customer” involvement, win. Programs handed off to sales and service in which they have only been peripherally involved, lose.
Adopting sound internal communication practices will help your program gain traction, thanks to more committed colleagues. You will build the foundation you need to succeed. Don’t jump in tentatively — create blanket expectations for communication, training, and feedback loops. Implement an “always-on” listening strategy that provides the opportunity for your colleagues to share their knowledge and concerns.
Beware! Once you gather and analyze your internal feedback, it’s important to use that information to improve your connected product initiative. Be prepared to share what you’ve learned, and how that information will be used — it’s the action you take that makes the feedback truly powerful.
- Recruit your Executive Sponsor to lead the communication and training charge.
- Connect with colleagues using feedback tools (such as surveys, face-to-face and online meetings, social media, etc.). New information will continuously emerge from the field — “always-on” feedback creates a stronger dialogue.
- Partner with marketing to ensure communications are ongoing, frequent, and consistent. Budget for a balance of internal and external communications, with built-in feedback loops.
- Close the loop. Conduct face-to-face meetings and present at departmental meetings – for example, the annual sales-kick off meeting. Highlight suggestions that have been incorporated into the connected product initiative. Develop and use KPIs as “carrots” (see Measure).
- Walk the talk. Encourage external teams and users to demonstrate the value and benefits of your connected products.
- Keep your ear to the ground. Empower teams to respond quickly and effectively to end-user feedback and make this interaction a sustainable competitive advantage.
- Extend feedback tools to capture information from external sources. (Use the frontline — they are closer to the end-user than any market research firm could ever be.)
- View external customers as a source of innovation. Treat each conversation as an opportunity to capture competitive or measurable data, and use it to your advantage.
“ We are very transparent with our key performance indicators — employees understand exactly what we are measuring, and exactly where we stand. Without a doubt, this makes our program stronger, more authentic, and competitive.” – Mark Hessinger, Executive Director, Worldwide Customer Service Gerber