A method to discover what your association customers think.

With the holiday shopping season upon us and the shift towards cyber-shopping as opposed to mobbing the mall, the likelihood of running into a window asking you to take an online survey to share your internet experience is almost certain. A quick way to gain your customers’ perspective on how your software is operating is by using an online survey to collect customer feedback.

But, what if your association is interested in gaining a deeper insight into what is going on in the minds of your constituency, and a fly-by survey just doesn’t supply the level of feedback needed? Then consider a deeper dive into quantifying the quality of your software by measuring its usability through the discovery process.

By conducting customer interviews to gain a better perspective of how your customers use software to solve their everyday business needs, you can give your software design and development teams better direction on how to proceed to deliver a more usable software product.

While you could think of the discovery process as an adventure to obtain information in the customer usability wilderness, there’s a methodology you need to follow to quantify the results collected when delving into the mind of the user and their experiences.

To accomplish this, be sure to:

Set Goals: Clearly define the exact area of customer usability being investigated. Simply stating “make software more usable” is much too broad.

Encourage Sharing: Include your team members in the discovery process (perhaps as observers). This may help designers and developers feel connected to the process and your customers.

Avoid Hostility: Remember the process is about testing the software for usability, not testing your customers on their ability to use the software. This is not about grilling a witness for information, but about working with your customer to find out what works best for him or her.

Have a Script: Present yourself as professional and avoid groping for information by having a prepared script you can follow. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate Hollywood production, but can just be a simple list of questions related to the area of your software under investigation.

Once completed, you will have:

Observations: A list of responses supplied by your customers and categorized in a manner that best fits your association’s software design and development needs.

Top Findings: A short list of the most relevant observations. This can be a digest of the most common responses to questions about using the software.

Recommendations: Concrete recommendations based on the observations and findings supplied by your discovery adventure. Be sure to provide these to the stakeholders invested in seeing an improvement in your software’s usability.

Next Steps: Discovery is an ongoing process. Outline the direction you want to continue to pursue, and next area of the software to investigate, to ensure you’re keeping your adventure on the correct path through the information wilderness.

With the penultimate goal being designing software for daily use, working closely with customers to determine what best works for them when using software will help make your association’s goal of supplying your constituents with the best online experience a reality.

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