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Product Development

Making Your Customer Testing Program More Valuable in 2019

January 28, 2019

On an intuitive level, company leaders understand the necessity of Customer Validation. But actually proving the worth of a customer testing program can be a challenge.

The 2019 Customer Validation Industry Report showed that despite the high emphasis companies place on customer insights, many professionals are still struggling to get the resources they need. Leadership needs to see proven value before they invest more resources. This means professionals must find ways to improve the results from their customer testing program despite limited resources.

This blog post will explore the most common obstacles to proving program value, then share tactics to overcome them straight from our in-house customer testing services team. With hundreds of tests from a variety of organizations and departments under their belt, you’ll learn value-driving insights you can implement immediately.

Struggling to Prove Program Value

The problem isn’t that these programs aren’t getting results. Rather, it’s that it is difficult for them to show the value of those results. Thirty percent of survey respondents said it is challenging to demonstrate how much value their customer testing program brings to their organization.

Making Your Customer Testing Program More Valuable in 2019 | Challenges Demonstrating Program ROI

Proving value is two-fold. The first part is about getting results in any number of feedback channels. You then need to turn that unorganized feedback into insights that reflect your target market’s relationship with your product. But that’s not enough. Part two depends on how (or if) your stakeholders use those results. This means making sure your efforts line up with departmental and organizational priorities.

Based on industry data, we’ve identified the three biggest roadblocks to proving the value of a customer testing program below.

Inconsistent Processes

Making small tweaks to a consistent series of steps is a key driver of program efficiency. Programs with uncontrolled processes tend to have so many “one-offs” that it’s unclear what works or doesn’t. This makes a program’s return over time hard to prove.

Sixty percent of survey respondents who said that showing returns from their customer testing program is challenging don’t have mature processes in place.

Lack of Metrics

Metrics, like the number of bugs found or the amount of feedback collected, speak volumes. But it’s difficult to show a pattern of success over time without consistent tracking.

Lack of Bandwidth

People managing customers tests are notoriously pressed for time. More than half of the respondents in the 2018 Customer Validation Industry Report said they don’t have enough time to demonstrate ROI.

Most companies are also missing a designated resource for customer testing. The survey revealed that only 12% of professionals manage tests as their primary job. Between running tests and juggling other job duties, many feel they do not have the bandwidth to put new processes into practice.

We asked Centercode’s Managed Services Director Tom Peelen and the Sr. Director of Customer Success Austin Meyer how a test manager can instead refocus their energy to increase the value of their customer testing program. Borrowing from over a collective decade of test management experiences, here are their top three suggestions.

Pro Tip #1: Strengthen Your Tester Community

There are enormous benefits to maintaining a well-sourced community of targeted testers. Besides faster and more reliable recruitments, Austin explained that many departments appreciate the direct line to customers that Customer Validation programs provide.

“With access to a diverse tester community, stakeholders could, in theory, shoot out a one survey question and get a quick response,” he said. “The opportunity to interact with their target market draws a lot of positive responses from stakeholders.”

Pro Tip #2: Know Your Audience

Tom asserted that tapping into your stakeholders’ priorities is essential to cementing the value of your customer testing program.

“A ‘sales’ mentality – that awareness of how to connect with customers based on their needs – goes a long way. When it comes to managing stakeholders, Luke (Centercode’s CEO) always pushes the team to discover ‘what’s keeping them up at night.’ Knowing the answer to that simple question gives you an idea of what they’re looking for, and what results will get them there.”

Austin suggested tailoring your feedback depending on your stakeholders’ roles.

“Dev and Engineering tend to focus on quality issues – bugs and other software problems. UX cares more about satisfaction: what customers like, where they are getting stuck, the more ‘touchy-feely’ areas. Product Managers want a hybrid; they care about quality and satisfaction, but from a business perspective. Executive sponsors respond to KPIs, bugs in vs. bugs fixed, and other high-level metrics. You’ll want to be aware of what matters to each team when presenting your results.”

Pro Tip #3: Be the Smartest Person in the Room

Tom stressed the importance of understanding both your product and your testers. While a single person can only speak to their personal experience, you can rely on the experiences of dozens of individuals to inform your insights.

“Take the time to know what your testers have experienced, how they feel, and why they might feel that way. Then, when you’re presenting your results, use that expertise. Don’t just word vomit – anyone can read a report. Tell the story around it. Bring in prior experiences to illustrate why something is happening in the context of that project.”

We asked Tom to describe the best compliment he ever received from a customer. It came from a product team that’d been going back and forth over a remote.

“They knew customers didn’t like the remote, but they still wanted to make it work. So we ran a test. As I gave them my analysis of their feedback, I used my own experiences with the product to help describe testers’ response to it.”

It turns out that his analysis validated what the company had spent months debating. In the end, they decided to rehash the remote’s design.

“It’s one thing for customers to say thank you,” Tom said, “but what’s more compelling is when you see Customer Validation result in true change.”

How Leaders Drive Customer Testing Program Value

Industry leaders are tracking results over time to identify opportunities for progress. This includes following up on their program’s contributions to the products they’ve tested. As a result, they can more easily showcase their efforts to company leadership, leading to wider program adoption.

To learn more about the ways industry leaders drive customer testing program value, read the full analysis in the 2019 Customer Validation Industry Report.

Read the Full 2019 Customer Validation Industry Survey

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