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 recently wrapped up my summer internship at HealthCrowd, a telehealth startup. You would use HealthCrowd to connect with holistic practitioners such as nutritionists and therapists using its online telehealth platform. Basically, it's Skype with patients on one side and a bunch of doctors on the other side (though the vision is much more than this) thus making healthcare more convenient and accessible than in-clinic consultations for specific health issues. I learned a lot from my first experience in online marketing and healthcare after having spent 4 years in technology and consulting. Two aspects of this concept make total sense to me. First, the use of technology to treat specific diseases makes healthcare convenient and accessible and reduces the dependence on traditional channels. Second, the greater vision aims to use the wisdom of crowds to provide actionable recommendations to given symptoms. As with all startups HealthCrowd needs to overcome certain challenges to be successful. The biggest challenge is to gain trust of patients seeking treatment. Would you pay HealthCrowd for a teleconsultation? Only time will tell.