Over a decade ago, a few telco veterans became frustrated with the UPS units for FTTH that were required to be installed by the FCC. The installation required the UPS units be powered near the ONT, which in many cases required an electrician to install an AC power outlet. That required scheduling time with the homeowner and securing their approval to enter the home. This added multiple hours of installation time.
The veterans were determined to change that process for the good of the customer and the telecom industry as a whole. They pooled resources and began to design a UPS that could power the ONT from a distance. They did their best to make it easy to install, and reliable enough that the unit would not need service for several years. After a year, a design was presented to field staff for critique. And critique they did.
The feedback they received included:
• The connectors were not as easy to use as they could be.
• The battery needed to be simple to change but secure in the enclosure.
• The switching power supply needed to show the presence of power without any test equipment.
• The unit should be easily reset.
The list went on to include a few more items that required even more time to solve. Still, the product designers dug in, and after another year of refining, the revised units were introduced to the market.
The same group of field techs tested the updated product and were surprised that their complaints and suggestions related to the earlier version were addressed. However, that was no surprise to the developers because they had listened to the people using the product every day.
When the FCC dropped the requirement for UPS installation, conventional wisdom suggested that most FTTH companies would no longer install the UPS units to reduce their costs. Conventional wisdom also said that the company providing the UPS units would have reduced sales. That wasn’t the case.
Because the telco veterans had filled the needs of the market, the market recognized the value to their customers and to them as a company. The veterans continued to listen to their customers. This simple, but powerful principle continues to pay off today.
LISTENING = LEARNING
Listening to the customer can be difficult for management. But, if management, stakeholders, and stockholders, are dedicated to product improvement, a commitment to listening will help grow your business.
Valuing your customer’s feedback is vital for the survival of your business. Here’s why:
1. A recent article from Harvard Business Review says, "…loyalty leaders — companies at the top of their industries in Net Promoter Scores or satisfaction rankings for three or more years — grow revenues roughly 2.5 times as fast as their industry peers and deliver two to five times the shareholder returns over the next 10 years."
2. Feedback is a powerful guide that can give your leadership team insights that chart a path forward for every part of a company — from product through UX and customer support. That’s especially important when it comes to customer satisfaction.
3. Listening to customer feedback makes customers feel involved and important.
4. Even bad feedback can be used to sell the product.
5. Customer feedback helps improve products and services.
The trick is getting your team members to gather and listen to that feedback.
5 BEST PRACTICES
Consider sharing these 5 best practices to encourage your team members to brush up on the WAY they listen.
1. Teach sales staff to actively listen to customer critiques and accept red herrings from possible customers.
2. Dig into research studies to determine whether the market warrants the R&D costs.
3. Examine solid market research to determine whether the market will change by the time the product is developed.
4. Uncover whether stakeholders are committed to product development.
5. Ask the hard questions about acceptable timelines, budgets and approval processes.
The key to starting a company and moving it forward takes a lot of hard work with a large emphasis of listening to the customer. The customer is the end user, and the product must meet the desired demands.
IDEAS BECOMES REALITY
• Figure 1 represents an idea that became reality and production after listening to the customer.
• Figure 2 shows the actual product for the customer.
• Figure 3 represents the customer request for a power off the grid solution.
• Figure 3 shows the development through time of keeping up with technology in a changing world through the use of larger solar panels and wind energy.
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