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Want to Develop a Product Customers will Love? Listen to Online Reviews

Make no mistake: Successful software product launches aren’t a matter of luck. Those software products that seemingly come from nowhere and then dominate their fields do well because their product teams understand what their audience really wants.

Successful software companies know customer insight isn’t a luxury, and product managers — the people most responsible for the product’s development process — require feedback to make their software thrive. Does the customer think the product is difficult to navigate? Does the product alleviate customers pain points? Do customers love a new feature or think it’s difficult to use? Valuable feedback like this can’t be a simple “yes/no” answer — otherwise, key insights can fall between the cracks. Instead, product managers need comments in the consumers’ own words — they need voice of customer (VOC) insight.

The Voice of the Customer, Unfiltered

It isn’t easy to uncover what customers really think about your product. The process of gathering customer feedback through traditional research is often flawed. For example, insights  may present a static snapshot in time, which lose relevance quickly. Customer sample sizes can be too small to be of real value. Or, those samples measure apples-to-oranges variables, such as SMBs and enterprises. Finally, conducting typical voice of the customer surveys through research firms can be prohibitively expensive.

With DIY survey tools, product owners can now directly ask customers what they are looking for — but even this has its drawbacks. For one, customers often have trouble articulating their needs — and when they do, those needs might not be what actually mitigates churn or builds advocacy. Instead, it’s better to develop ways to hear customers express thoughts about your product in less self-conscious ways. This is where validated online user reviews can help.

The Power of Online User Reviews

Reviews aren’t just a box to check for your brand or a nice-to-have; they’re a competitive necessity for software companies. According to a 2017 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey, 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Recommendations matter, because, according to the Medill IMC Spiegel Research Center, purchase likelihood improves 15 percent when buyers read verified buyer reviews over anonymous reviews.

Customers want to share their experiences through reviews knowing they can help other buyers and reward attentive brands. Marketo’s The State of Engagement Report indicates 66 percent of B2B buyers want to advocate for the vendors who demonstrate they care. They want to share, and they are sharing — a lot.

Consider during the first half of 2018, approximately 50 reviews were submitted from verified users every hour to reviews sites Capterra, Software Advice, and GetApp. Today, they house more than 600,000 verified reviews across 700 software categories — a massive amount of valuable VOC data for software companies to use. This growth rate will only continue to accelerate across businesses of all sizes, in the U.S. and globally.

Product user reviews help attract customers and gain their trust. With more verified, detailed reviews, there is more trust from the customers. It’s therefore critical for software companies to engage with sites that offer a neutral and transparent platform.

Worthwhile sites provide effective security to ensure reviews published are from actual, verified users, versus bots and scammers. The bar should be set high: Look for a site that’s vibrant, with thousands of verified reviews that range the ratings spectrum.

Better Insights, Better Business Decisions

Using reviews for VOC insights provides software companies (and product managers, specifically) with an open channel to analyze customer feedback in real-time. Tools that collect and comb reviews data are essential, given the volume of reviews being examined, and the details to be measured and compared.

Without analysis, product managers must manually scan their reviews pages for trends. If they are ambitious, they must then go to competitor pages and manually look for their noted strengths and weaknesses. If their competitors are gaining an edge, the software PM knows this only by inference.

Tools help software PMs quickly look at relevant reviews or analyze subsets, such as customer ratings across different rating fields and demographic buckets — in real-time. PMs can also dive into the review copy to gather more granular details and use this information to identify areas for improvement. It should be noted that reviews can also point to strengths that should be emphasized in the development process.

User reviews are a resource for software companies that should be used in lockstep with product development throughout the product life cycle. At launch, reviews provide much-needed feedback on how the product is being received. Insights from reviews can indicate when upgrades and product enhancements should go live. This valuable insight can also be benchmarked, tracked and shared throughout the organization providing key drivers to business strategy, the product portfolio and customer experience.

Verified reviews are the direct voice of the customer and therefore, should be strategically leveraged to inform product development as well as engage with customers. As customers share their experiences with a product, they use keywords and expressions — and in these comments, there is an opportunity for software companies to improve their outcomes.

Align with Today’s Buyer’s Journey

Today’s buyer’s journey has vastly evolved, thanks to the growth of digital marketing and its impact on how buyers use the internet. To remain relevant in the buyer’s mind, companies must adjust their strategy to match this new journey. Advancements in data and analytics are helping companies with this adjustment and allowing them to make more informed decisions.

At least two factors remain constant for product managers: Listening to customers and developing with their buying journey are the most effective ways to earn trust and stay competitive. Software companies that listen to VOC and activate user reviews as a strategic channel will drive more engagement with their customers and support continued growth and customer loyalty.

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