Your Untapped Source of RD knowledge
Research and development is an integral part of every business. Whether you make and sell a physical product, provide a business service or other intangible commodity or you have a more nuanced business model, every product or service can be refined, improved and built upon. Deciding exactly how to make your offering better requires market research, feedback from real customers and real people, and a deep understanding of what the problems are that your business solves.
Customer reviews and feedback are packed full of this information, but even if you're a new business and you don't have any customer reviews to go on, you can still use reviews of your competitors to inform the development of your product or service. Online reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt – it's no surprise that underhanded activity like fake reviews, or changing the product listing for an item with good reviews to an inferior product, happens on the internet, but it is not hard to determine the validity of a review left online with a few simple criteria:
- Does the reviewer have any other review activity? Accounts with one review can largely be ignored, unless the content explicitly states that the reviewer thought the item was so good/bad that they had to review it.
- How long is the review? A single line, or a couple of short sentences doesn't tell you very much, but people leaving fake reviews won't take the time to write more than a couple of lines. The longer the review, the more useful it is likely to be.
- Does the reviewer seem to understand what the product or service is for? Some people have unrealistic expectations and therefore tend to leave negative reviews because the product didn't immediately solve their problem (and may not have been designed to do so). A reviewer who explains the problem your product solved, or who can otherwise demonstrate that they know exactly what the product or service is intended for, is worth listening to.
When you're looking to conduct some market research and product development activity you need to start with a list of the information you need. You might know that delivery of your product is an issue, or you might be looking for feedback on how the product looks and works in situ. Similarly, you might be looking to add new features, or refine your product to remove features that aren't actually useful in real life.You should also be prepared to learn things you never even considered; so keep an open mind and a separate list of revelations that could inform your product and service development at a later stage.
When you find a review that really gives great insight into your product you can respond to the review online and thank the reviewer for their feedback, and even request further information from them. Entering into a respectful dialogue with your reviewers online not only shows that you are invested in your customers, but that you're also actively monitoring reviews to find problems you can solve. This can do wonders for the reputation of your business as we know that businesses that respond to reviews and fix problems, are respected much more than those businesses who ignore their online feedback.
If, after looking at reviews and feedback for product improvement information, you still need more insight then you can conduct more traditional research and development activities, but that untapped source of insight and feedback is incredibly valuable and should not be overlooked.
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