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How customer service can improve your product design

Customer service helpdesk agent

On the surface, customer service is just that—policies, procedures, and business features that help customers get their questions answered, concerns addressed, and improve their experience with your company. It's primarily a retention strategy, making customers more likely to stick around and buy more from you. But what if it was also a customer acquisition strategy, capable of improving your core business and organically attracting new customers?

It's not hard to use your customer service helpdesk as a vehicle for internal product development.

Track everything

Your first step is to track everything in the support department, or at least everything that you can. You'll need to rigorously measure and track user reviews for your products, both in aggregated form and in subjective, open user comments. Record your inbound phone calls and emails that come into your customer service helpdesk, and give your customer service reps the opportunity to take notes on all customer service engagements, at every step of the process. Your goal is to gather information; the more you have, the more accurate and helpful the subsequent steps of this process will be. It's better to have too much information than not enough.

Gather direct feedback

Next, start drawing conclusions based on direct forms of feedback you're getting from your customers. Establish a point of contact for customer service review—it could be a Director of Client Relations, a supervisor in your customer service center, or even yourself. This contact will go through forms of direct feedback, including reviews and inbound phone calls, to find patterns of compliments and complaints. You can also conduct an open customer survey, submitted to both first-time and repeat customers. With this information, you can find potential flaws in your products, common complaints, and other information that could be helpful in the development of subsequent products.

Check indirect feedback

Unfortunately, not all forms of customer feedback are direct and easy to understand. It can also come in the form of online user actions, the way they use your product, or other behavioral elements that have been encouraged or allowed by your business. Look to user behavior on your site or app, possibly including heat maps or behavior metrics in Google Analytics to determine what your users are thinking and doing. From this data, you can determine habits, thoughts, or behaviors you want to eliminate (or supplement).

Bring engineers and agents together

Once you've gathered as much objective data as possible within your customer service helpdesk, make it a point to bring your engineers (or product developers) and support agents together. Written conclusions can be helpful to engineers, but a dialogue may reveal more—there are real people behind all those inquiries and surveys, and your customer service team knows those personalities better than anyone. Your customer service reps are the ones most capable of communicating your customers' needs to your product specialists. Take advantage of them. Feel free to lead the discussion with some of your objective findings, but don't be afraid to let the conversation grow in new directions—your engineers know the limits of your potential offerings, and your reps have great intuition about customer needs.

Create customer-focused goals for product development

Finally, gather up your most important goals for future product development and keep them as your ultimate priorities. Your highest priority should be making users happy—even if it conflicts with your original idea or if it seems counterintuitive. Your customers are your company's lifeblood, and their thoughts and opinions should dictate the course of your company's development. Each subsequent round of development should become even more immersed in your customers' wants and needs. The process is gradual, but eventually, you will be successful in increasing customer acquisition and satisfaction. Apply these strategies and you'll be well on your way to transforming your customer service department to a full-fledged product improvement division. The closer you bring your product developers and support agents, the more directly you'll be able to incorporate your customers' experiences and behaviors into your final offerings. With products that have been developed with your customers specifically in mind, you'll attract more customers from the ground up, you'll reduce bad customer experiences, and your retention will naturally increase.

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