I went for a talk by Steve Blank a few weeks ago. He spoke on listening to your customers to validate the idea for your startup (or a new product for existing companies) until you get to a scalable and repeatable business model (he calls the pivot) and thus be successful. He urges entrepreneurs (or intrapreneuers) to "get out of the building" (see a signed copy of his book to me) and listen to your customers to validate your idea or tweak it based on customer feedback. I highly recommend his book because I have been practicing his Customer Development model (right image) and find it very successful. As a usability specialist for 4 years I made websites easy to use by asking customers for their feedback.
Recently, I wrapped up an internship at HealthCrowd, a telehealth platform that connects holistic practitioners such as therapists and nutritionists to you. I decided to find out for myself what our customers (in this case people who visit a nutritionist, therapist, etc) thought of our service. I asked ten customers and found six in favor of the service and four not in favor or who would not use it the way it was intended to be used. Many would argue that ten customers are not enough to make conclusions but with limited time and resources it always helps to listen to even a few at least for the qualitative feedback if not for the quantitative extrapolation of results to apply to the larger population.
Below, you will see two video excerpts of my interviews (positive feedback video on top and negative at the bottom). Putting together the positive feedback from all six customers it is clear that they would use HealthCrowd for its benefits: convenient consultations that can be taken from work (or anywhere) during lunch break (or anytime), better control of their health through online health monitoring and a more effective way of choosing a practitioner (through common health stories shared in the form of user testimonials). Customers who did not favor HealthCrowd said they would use the service as a directory to search for a practitioner and once they identified a practitioner they would book an in-clinic consultation. Others resonated the fact that the relationship built through in-clinic consultations is integral to the healing process. One customer just didn't trust HealthCrowd (see second video below) based on impressions formed in the under-5-minute interview which goes to show how quickly we form our impressions. By addressing these needs and truly listening to our customers we should be on a less rocky road to success. Specifically, how do we capture the customer segment who will use this service as a directory? How do we substitute the power of relationships formed during in-clinic consultations? In what ways can we build credibility and get patients to trust HealthCrowd?
In conclusion, customer feedback is a critical component for the success of any company and should be done frequently to refine our hypothesis through all stages of product development.
I walked with thousands of supporters today to end Alzheimer's. I walk as I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's two years ago. Currently, there is no cure for this progressive and fatal disease. It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and 5.3 million Americans are living with this disease. I believe this disease is worse than others not just because it has no cure or is fatal but also because it is emotionally exhausting for caregivers to watch as the disease destroys a critical part of our everyday lives - memories. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing memory loss, so watching my grandmother forget my name or the memories I cherished with her was the hardest part. But I also believe there is hope and someday soon there will be a cure. I encourage you to donate to the Alzheimer's Association or sign a petition (by 9/21/10) urging Congress to increase funding for research and protection of vital Alzheimer's programs, as I did. We can make a difference.