Paul Criswell, Product Marketing Manager
Xerox Office and Solutions Business Group

It worked for Field of Dreams star Kevin Costner, but will it work for your small business?

A bicycle-powered laptop. A mouse with a built-in heart monitor. A toaster with a built-in smoke detector. Ok, maybe these aren’t real products, but you understand what I’m getting at. Just because you can create a bicycle-powered laptop doesn’t mean you should. Have customers asked to power their laptop as they pedaled their bike? Probably not. You’re solving a nonexistent issue, or worse yet, you’re creating something your customers aren’t asking for and won’t buy.

Instead, engage your customers. Online surveys, focus groups, and beta testing are just a few options to get your product or idea in front of customers. Ask them how your idea will help them in their business.

It’s important to remember that relying on one method is not considered “Voice of the Customer” (VOC). You need a broad range of methods and ways to talk to them and receive their feedback. Relying solely on one method will likely yield a skewed view of your products and not give you a true picture of what your customers really want or need in your offering.

Senior leadership support is essential in your VOC efforts. Customer insights need to be embraced by all to impact the entire organization whether a small business or large enterprise. Sales and marketing departments can’t do it on their own.  Customer feedback is not a one-time activity. Constant and consistent customer feedback will inspire your engineering or development organizations and will allow your company to create products your customers really want – and will buy.

What tools have you had the most success with at your small business to engage your customers? Share them in the comments below.