It’s easy to tell customers that a product will solve their problems. It’s much harder to deliver a product that follows through on your promise – and there are millions of unsuccessful products to prove it. With market competitiveness hinging on the delivery of more powerful and reliable solutions, companies rely on Customer Validation to lower risk and increase satisfaction.
From user testing and beta testing to customer acceptance, there are many names and processes associated with Customer Validation. But the bottom line is that it drives product success by introducing real customer insights to real products before launch.
Keep reading to learn the basic principles of CV: what it is, why it’s necessary, and how you can use it to propel more reliable, cost-efficient product improvements.
What is Customer Validation?
At a high level, Customer Validation (CV) refers to customers testing real, unreleased products and features in real environments over an extended period of time. This research discipline allows you to collect representative customer feedback to produce and release more successful products.
After years of experiencing fragmentation in how tech companies run these tests, Centercode has developed a specific set of proven research and testing methodologies for running Alpha, Beta, and Delta Tests. These processes allow companies to capture unique, actionable insights about the customer experience from target users in their true environments throughout the entire product lifecycle.
Why Should My Company Invest in CV?
The technological landscape is rapidly evolving, and this impacts tech products in a few key ways.
- Products have become far more complex/interconnected. Products no longer live in silos. They need to be tested in a wide variety of real technical environments to accurately evaluate their performance and interoperability.
- The audience has changed. Until recently, tech products were mainly used by a “techie” subset of the population. Now that sophisticated tech is mainstream, it has to cater to audiences that are much less technical. These users also have high expectations surrounding the ease-of-use of products in their lives, making a seamless customer experience more vital than ever.
- Fewer channels increase risk after release. Companies are selling their products through fewer channels, so poor reviews on a single channel (such as Amazon) can sink a product. Even if customers are buying from stores or company websites, they will frequently research and read reviews from mainstream sources. A few poor reviews can have a significant impact on sales.
Customer Validation sits at a critical juncture in the product lifecycle. It evaluates all of the different aspects of a product or specific feature (quality, user experience, documentation, messaging) and gives you an opportunity to improve all of those facets prior to release.
As a result, the return on investment (ROI) of Customer Validation is immense. A relatively small investment in CV will pay for itself many times over by decreasing costs and increasing sales as you release better versions of your product.
Who Does CV Apply to?
In essence, every product with a customer will benefit from Customer Validation. While CV is most visibly associated with cutting-edge, B2C products (such as smart home products and wearables), any product with an end user benefits from pre-release market validation.
This means that CV is critical to all product types, including hardware, software, and services. It’s also important for products with all types of audiences, such as consumer, business, and enterprise.
Where Does CV Live in My Company?
Customer Validation stretches across a few different departments and contributes to quality, user experience, and market research efforts. About half of CV programs are executed by product managers, with the other half being spread across various departments, starting with engineering, customer research, and support teams.
As the demand for responsive, integrated products grows, more and more companies are dedicating a team specifically for Customer Validation. This allows the CV function to fully support the efforts of all relevant stakeholders by providing meaningful pre-release product insight.
When Does CV Take Place Within the Product Lifecycle?
The first two stages of Customer Validation occur between development and the initial launch of a new product. Alpha Tests extend your QA team’s resources by surfacing destabilizing bugs and other interoperability issues in real-world scenarios. Beta Tests then assesses customer satisfaction and offer comprehensive customer experience insights to ensure a successful launch.
After launch, Delta Tests evaluate product updates and additions on an ongoing basis, providing additional value as the product matures. These three tests provide holistic, continuous validation of the customer experience before release.
How Does CV Save Resources and Increase Efficiency?
The more attuned you are to customer needs, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver the right solution. Using on Customer Validation to collect customer insights fortifies product decision-making with real-world data. It helps to surface issues that could otherwise compromise launch success and to answer specific product questions that inform updates. It enables product teams to refine their product further, reducing returns and increasing overall satisfaction.
To learn how modern customer testing addresses the challenges of today’s tech products, download the Customer Validation in 20 Minutes ebook.
This blog post was updated on June 25th, 2019.