Customer Engagement in Product/Service Development – new hints from Nokia

It is widely accepted that the more closely tied, integrated even, customers are in your development process for new products and services, the more likely success will follow. An April 13, 2008 article in the New York Times Magazine, “Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty – why a corporate ‘user anthropologist’ is spending so much of his time in the shantytowns of the world” (by Sara Corbett) sets a new standard. Nokia has Jan Chipchase wandering about the world seeking out what the next three billion cell phone users desire.

The first billion cellphones sold in 20 years; the second billion in four years; and the third billion in two. 80% of the worlds population live within range of a cellular network. The uses cell phones are already being put to in the underdeveloped world are quite unlike those in the developed countries. The only way to understand these and to begin to elicit input from new users is to go out and ask them, face-to-face. So, Nokia has full time personnel, on the ground, sending reports back to headquarters and trying out mockups of potential new products with real people.

It would serve everyone who is envisioning a new product or service to ask themselves:

  • “Have I actually asked real customers what they want or need?”
  • “Have I tested my ideas and received direct feedback that my product actually delivers a value someone wants to pay for?”
  • and so on.

Don’t let your engineers, marketers, sales people, or worse, you own enthusiasms, substitute for live human feedback.

If Content Is King on the Web? – What Are the Best Modes of Communication?

If you are trying to build traffic and adhesion for your business on the web, “content” is central to any strategy. But, what is this “content”? How do you decide what the content should be?

The answer to this question probably lies in some basic thinking about who your target customers are.

Jaffe Customer RolesIn addition it would be useful to think of the many ways in which you might communicate with your customers. On the web you have a lot of modes in which to play. As suggested by the excerpt ( shown to the left) from Joseph Jaffe’s Join the Conversation, a consumer can play a range of roles. So, in thinking about content, it may prove most productive to engage a parent of middle school children (in the Participant and Community faces a la Jaffe) in a conversation about barriers to better school performance in web community using blogging, bulletin board, or wiki techniques. Here your content expertise in middle school eduction can shine through in the discussion. And, you might even learn something about how parents view these issues.

A future departure for thinking about how to target and communicate with customers on the web is to lay Jaffe’s contribution of the Six Cs mentioned in an earlier blog article (opens new window) on top of his “Many Faces” idea show here.