How should we improve our products? What new services should we offer? More often than not these questions are not asked to the customer. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on market research, data analysis, customer focus groups and often forget to simply ask their customer – what else would you like?
Recently Google, one of the more innovate companies out there, launched an initiative to include its customers in the brainstorming process. Using two new web sites, Google Product Ideas as well as Product Ideas for Google Mobile. Although the concept of using the Internet to include customers in the brainstorming process is not new, it is surprising how few companies develop open lines of communication with their customers as part of their market research and strategic planning process.
Using the Internet and social networking tools can not only serve as a resource for developing new ideas for products and services, but can in almost real time improve customer loyalty and can help avoid costly mistakes. Although it can be difficult to hear that your idea for a new product or service is not good, it is undeniably better to get that feedback before additional resources and investment are committed.
Over the last few years better tools and widgets have continued to make both the solicitation of ideas and feedback on those ideas much easier. From simple voting tools like the thumbs up and thumbs down used by Stumble Upon to more complex ranking systems, there are a wide range of inexpensive and well designed resources that can allow any company to tap into the collective creativity of thousands of people.