The Voice of the Customer

This blog has been following a very specific sequence of topics, all geared towards the topic of Going Viral. The outline has been in place and every post has followed that outline, all tied together to address the specific functions needed for viral growth. This blog is supposed to continue the Doing the Impossible theme.

I’m breaking that sequence.

I’ve been updating and editing automotive engineering manuals I first wrote in the early ’90s and I came across this important phrase: “Voice of the Customer.” The context was how design goals should be set at the beginning of the program that reflect the voice of the customer.

Twenty years later, this topic is even more relevant. (Sure, I’m banging my own drum by pointing out that I was driving this topic twenty years ago, and weren’t I a visionary in recognizing this!? More importantly, seeing this reminded me HOW IMPORTANT this topic is.)

I have seen with software, more than any other product, how the Voice of the Customer is paramount.

We, as consumers, are inundated with products. Even our cars have computer systems with touch-screen control and complicated menus. We have smartphones and tablets and laptops and desktops, oh my! We fill out information on digital devices, we order products online, we submit trouble reports and customer complaints through a company’s “dashboard.”

And yet a lot of these systems are pure shlock. They’re clumsy, they’re cumbersome, they’re hard to navigate. Excessive mouse clicks to find what we need. Drivers complain about how hard the infotainment system is to navigate. Have you ever tried to work your way through filling out insurance forms online?

Behind all of this is the customer. Software companies need to look at their software through their customers’ eyes. We’re usually not experts in their field, so the “logical engineering choice” for menu layouts completely baffles us.

When I pick up a new software program, I try to figure out what the logic is behind the program. What were they thinking when they designed it? They sure weren’t thinking like I do as a consumer or user, so if I try to do what I intuitively do, I’ll fail miserably.

I am passionate that software programmers should NEVER design a UI, particularly if they work for Microsoft. Why should I have to figure out their logic? Why can’t they make something that I can figure out easily? Sure, they have to do some research and studies to see how users actually use their software. Well, why not?

Software companies: do you want your software sales to expand exponentially? Then listen to the Voice of the Customer. Ask them what they want, what they need. Sometimes, like with kids (or girlfriends and wives), they don’t come right out and tell you and you have to figure out what they really mean.

Software that intuitively operates the way users think will make users happy. Happy users brag about the product and tell others. Slightly annoyed users don’t.

Software programs that works like users expect them to are poised to succeed like crazy.

Listen to the Voice of the Customer. And build software that works like they (we) want it to.

Please.

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