Customer support provides a surprising benefit that can help product management, marketing, customer success, and your company’s overall growth. What is that benefit? It’s what we call customer discovery.
For too long support operations have been in the shadows of company growth, but no longer. With today’s complex AI-driven products, like smart home devices, security cameras and trackers, wearables, sleep tech, pet tech, and a host of others, customer support can make or break your operation through the valuable insights they discover.
Customer discovery is when your support professionals – who are in weekly, if not daily contact with your customers – discover new things about your product and your customers’ lives that can inform your strategy going forward.
As customer success consultant and thought leader Kristen Hayer recently said in an article on the InfoLink blog in reference to onboarding new customers:
“Part of an amazing onboarding experience includes some discovery. Why did the customer purchase your solution? What are they hoping to achieve with it? What will tell them that they made the right decision? The answers to these questions provide critical information you can use to refine your product and customer journey.”
Let’s break down in detail how customer discovery can help your firm.
Discover New Use Cases
Many marketing and product innovations come from discovering how customers are actually using your product, which may or may not be how you originally envisioned. Product teams are very creative in visualizing their ideal persona and their particular use cases. But there’s nothing like a few real, surprise use cases that can spur new thinking.
For example, we happen to work with a smart lock manufacturer, who among other critical use cases designed their for the pure convenience factor of unlocking the door remotely after you park your car in the driveway.
But one of our support agents discovered an interesting use case. A man was living at a house with a smart lock installed. His younger brother, who lived with him, would often come back home in the late hours of the night (doing what younger brothers do he would go out and stay out late with his buddies).
Instead of getting up in the middle of the night, the older brother would now just reach over to his nightstand, grab his phone, and unlock the door for his younger brother. He got to stay in bed, and the younger brother avoided sleeping on the front steps.
Discover Product Issues
Customer discovery is also a great way to discover product problems so you can incorporate improvements in upcoming releases.
But this isn’t limited to discovering product defects; you can also discover awkward user interface issues or design flaws that make your product difficult to use for a particular use case.
Discover Possible Partnerships
What other smart tech products have your customers purchased along with yours? Does your car-cam customer use a particular insurance company? Maybe you can forge a partnership with the insurer so that they offer the smart car-cam to their customers, or at least accept your data feeds as evidence of accidents.
Discover Customer Motivations
Why did your customers buy your product? Discovering reasons and motivations can be as surprising as discovering new use cases. If you can find out a new use case, such as opening the door remotely with your smart lock when the young’uns come home from a late night of partying, maybe you can tap into a whole new market of people who don’t care about the security aspects but have a house full of college students or teenagers?
Or maybe your customers bought something for a previously unknown reason (to you), but they’re finding it takes longer than they expected to work, or they find it hard to get value out of your product for their particular reason for purchasing.
Discovering new motivations can also help you improve your Customer Journey Support process to improve time-to-value and satisfaction for a new segment of buyers.
Establish a Continuous Feedback Loop
The benefits of customer discovery begs the question: how can we systematize customer discovery to benefit our product management and marketing processes? We recommend implementing a continuous feedback loop as part of your standard operating procedures.
Kristen Hayer again:
“Invest in a discovery feedback loop between your onboarding and product teams, and measure the impact on product-market fit and your retention rate.”
Setting up an established feedback loop is an operational decision, but you must back it up with technology. Make sure you invest in software that allows you to include stakeholders from various departments, including support, product and marketing, as power users. Set up the workflows so your continuous feedback loop becomes a central part of your management platform.
So where do you go from here? Adopt the mindset that puts customer support on an even playing field with product, marketing and operations. Realize that customer support personnel are the front lines in your company’s relationship with your customers.
I would even go so far as to say that they are probably the most important part of your market research efforts. Your customer service reps, if trained right, become your customers’ confidantes. Your customers open up to them. They share information candidly and without reservation because they feel safe with the nurturing and helpful nature of your front line support people.
Give them the position they deserve – because they can give you the intelligence you need.
CEO and Founder of Infolink-EXP. He’s founded technology companies in big data analytics, Internet services, software, nearshore outsourcing and technology customer support for 20+ years. Lives in El Paso, Texas and spends part of his time in San Jose, CA and the Silicon Valley. Passionate about customer experience (CX), in particular through consumers’ complete cycle of selecting, adopting and fully utilizing IoT technology to improve their lives.