I’m a big advocate of talking to your customers. I ran my first user-research sessions more than 20 years ago, and I build first-person research into every project I do. Here’s a great example of how forward-thinking companies are moving this “conversation” into new channels. True story, happened to me yesterday:
I am a big user of Trello, the web-based organization tool. Two days ago, I wanted to customize one of my projects, so I opened the settings menu to make the configuration change. I discovered that I couldn’t do it—I needed a premium account, what they call “Trello Gold”, in order to make the change. Trello offered me the option to upgrade on the spot, but since the customization wasn’t a big deal to me, I didn’t buy the upgrade, abandoned the configuration change, and went back to work.
Then yesterday, I got an email from Trello offering me a free upgrade to Trello Gold. Normally, I delete these kinds of promotions, but the subject line was incredibly specific to my need. It read, “Free Trello Gold To Customize Your Boards!” Since the topic was fresh in my mind, I opened the email and saw the offer: give them a promotional tweet, and they’d give me a free upgrade. Normally, I hate using my Twitter stream like this, but this Tweet was cute:
— Josh Seiden (@jseiden) March 11, 2015
Dr. Seuss! So I went ahead and tweeted, got my Trello Gold accound, made my configuration change, and we all walked away happy.
So, here are the lessons:
- Pay attention to what your customers are doing with your products. Build “sensing” capability into your product.
- Create the ability to respond in a meaningful way. If you are doing a good job of listening, you will understand what your customer is trying to do, and you’ll be able to offer him or her the value that they are seeking, perhaps repackaged with some compromise.
- Be prepared to rethink value exchange. It’s not always about payment. Sometimes, smaller sub-units of value work for both parties.
Wait. Is this creepy, or just good service?
Finally, I know some of you are thinking: this is creepy. They are monitoring my use of the system and I don’t like that. While I’m not going to argue that creepiness isn’t possible here, in this case, it didn’t feel that way to me. It felt as though I had walked into a neighborhood store, had a conversation with a good merchant who understood me, talked a bit about what I wanted and was trying to do, and came to a deal that satisfied us both.
In other words, I felt like Trello was doing a good job of listening to their customers. Welcome to the future of listening.