Using “Voice Of Customer” for Developing New Tech-based Products and Services

by Carey Novak, Director,
Technology Commercialization, Bradley University

One of the main challenges to commercializing new, innovative products and services is finding out what customers really want. Many entrepreneurs spend their very limited resources on developing prototypes into product offerings, creating a business model, and trying to sell the product.  Many of these efforts fail because the product provides too little benefit to the customer. This is especially true with tech-based products and services.
 

The solution to this problem is collecting customer feedback during the early stages of product development and using the feedback to create product features that deliver customer value. This can be done in an iterative way so that each round of customer feedback helps to clarify product features and add certainty to the business model and product launch.
 

Through the Turner Center’s technology commercialization program, our staff helps companies design and implement a “Voice of Customer” process for new tech-based products and services. The general framework consists of:

•  Prototype development. Depending upon the existing level of product development (concept to working prototype), Center staff help the client access technical resources for producing virtual models and  proof-of-concept as well as making design changes to an existing prototype. The goal is to develop the appropriate model or prototype to engage customers for feedback.

 

•  Market and customer research. The Turner Center has excellent resources to help a client perform market research to identify key customer profiles. These are used to identify and contact customers for interviews. In many cases, these customers exist in central Illinois and can be contacted for face-to-face interviews.

 

•  Customer Interviews.  A small group of customers are contacted for individual interviews. A set of interview questions are designed to identify problems and needs associated with the general product concept and the “job” it performs. If practical, specific feedback on the client’s prototype is also collected.

 

•  Translating customer feedback to product features. The customer comments are synthesized into action items for making changes to product features; resulting in a new version of the prototype. This new prototype is presented again to the customers for collecting feedback to drive subsequent design changes.

 

•  Refining the business model. As the client evaluates how well the new product delivers value to customers, this insight is used to clarify and refine the business model and overall business plan. This greatly improves the likelihood for a successful new product launch.

 

For more information or to get this process started for you, please contact Carey Novak at cenovak@bradley.edu or call (309) 677-4432.