How Do You Know What Customers Want?
Now that serverless technology enables building and releasing applications without spending precious time coordinating infrastructure changes, enterprises in particular are finding it easier to deliver a stream of innovative features, updates and products to market faster. And while Stackery is developing a product to uniquely solve the operational challenges serverless brings to enterprises, we've often wondered how do you capture what's on your customer's mind amidst all of this rapid development?
Do you know what your customers are really passionate about? What truly keeps them up at night? We probably won't know for sure until we hear the passion in their voices as they talk about their problems.
That is why I'm taking a closer look at what a Customer Advisory Group – where a group of customers advise you on topics ranging from industry trends, business priorities and product direction – can do to provide even better insight into what customers want.
I've had the opportunity to start and lead Customer Advisory Groups and I've found that engaging key customers in a more structured approach can go a long way in building a strong loyal customer and learning more about what is actually important to them.
Since serverless technology enables you to rapidly prototype new product innovations, including multiple directions, one of the greatest benefits of a Customer Adisory Group is to share these prototypes for validation. It’s a great way to get early and quick feedback on your product from your customers.
Additional benefits of a Customer Advisory Group include:
- Direct, unfiltered, and candid feedback on all aspects of how your company engages within your marketplace – your products, people, and services
- Early warnings of shifts in customer/market requirements and emerging opportunities
- New Product Development feedback that can drive innovation
- Critical insights into both the obvious and the below-the-surface problems customers may experience
- Intelligence on competitors' tactics and strategies - what's working and what's not
I've found the key to success in setting up a program is to define your mission, identify the benefits to your customers and determine the meeting cadence and follow up. Equally as important is to identify who might be the best fit in an advisory role. Look for leaders within your customer's organizations who are willing to express their point of view and also represent the views of other customers.
Here are three important steps in starting a program:
1. Define your mission
You'll need to gather input from your internal stakeholders and craft a mission for the group. Describing your mission helps explain the group's purpose to your customers and it can also help to set expectations internally.
Creating a mission is helpful to customers and your internal teams:
2. Explain what's in it for your customer
It is important to explain to your customer how they will benefit from being your advisor since they are carving out valuable time from their busy schedule. Often times you might be hesitant to ask too much of your customers because you don't want to bother them, however, it's important to remember your customer's success is directly tied to your success – so they will more than likely be interested in joining forces with you.
Highlighting the key benefits will inspire customers to join the group:
3. Get Buy-In
It's important for your customer to understand what is expected of them. Ideally, you'll have face-to-face sessions in addition to virtual sessions. Hosting these events is a great way to give back to your Customer Advisory Group - customers love it because it's a great way to meet their peers and discuss business challenges in person.
The cadence of the meetings can be flexible – I've found Customer Advisors willing to meet more often to provide input into the product development process. This is helpful with the accelerated development enabled by serverless technology.
Sharing expectations builds buy-in, faster:
Lastly, creating and distributing a Customer Advisory Group meeting summary is important so contributions have been captured and expectations are set for any follow up items.
It is exciting to see the benefits of serverless technology and how Stackery is helping enterprises find an easier way to predictably spin up new environments, automate the build and deploy process, and have operational control and a line of sight into the health of their serverless applications. By adding a Customer Advisory Group to the mix of this rapid product delivery cadence means we can truly delight our customers.
If you are interested in joining our Customer Advisory Group, please feel free to reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.