10 January 2009

Consumer software vendors: this is how you should do customer feedback

Recently I shelled out a massive £1.19 on the Nambu iPhone app. This isn't actually the subject of this post because the best thing I like about it is not the app itself, but how Nambu manage feedback from customers on bugs or feature requests: UserVoice. Here it is in action:
Anyone who's used Digg before will instantly recognise this, but the genius part from UserVoice is to produce something that's a cross between Digg and JIRA. Here are the key features about how it works:
  • It appears as part of your normal web site (e.g. http://iphone.feedback.nambu.com/).
  • It's very easy to search existing items and create new ones.
  • Customers vote for things you want them to do using up to three votes per item out of their allocation of ten, and also comment on items.
  • Customers can see what's new, what's hot, and if they want get an RSS feed of updates.
  • The developers keep watch over the list, review items and schedule them for releases (so what we've really got here is an Agile Product Backlog driven by consensus across all clients).
  • Customers can imediately see what's going on with an item - being reviewed, planned for a specific release - and the developers comment on which release a feature will go into.
I think this is a great approach. It brings the customers much closer to what's going on with the app and allows them to drive what's happening next (but limiting total votes to ten keeps them focused on the things that really matter to them). It allows the developers to see what it's worth putting their time into rather than having to use guesswork or "market research". It gives the customers somewhere they can see they're being listened to rather than having to use an e-mail support inbox black hole or ring a call centre of hold music tedium and disinterested operators. It's very 2.0. What more could you want?

Whilst this works very well for small applications, it would be interesting to see how this really does scale up for something like iTunes (UserVoice do have some big customers on their client list). It's also worth noting that JIRA has had a votes feature for years, but it just doesn't achieve what UserVoice have done.

So if you're a small software application vendor then you definitely should be looking at UserVoice and asking yourself whether you really want to listen to your customers or not.

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