How do Microsoft product teams—and specifically the CRM team—find out what customers need and want to inform their decisions about future releases? Hi, I’m Dave LeFevre, new to the CRM team, but I’ve been doing product planning for about fourteen years now and thought I’d share some of our activities with you.
We strive for a mix of customer inputs in our planning process. Confidence goes up in a decision when you have more than one source telling you a similar story. So we blend qualitative efforts (things like user visits, focus groups, and feedback from newsgroups) with quantitative information (such as surveys and usage data). Getting that done and bringing them all together is my job.
For example, I just completed my first round of user visits on this team with a company in the Midwest. We spent two days there, one observing service reps taking calls, solving problems, and doing their best to make customers and partners happy. From those observations, we built various models that express what we learned, which eventually end up as user requirements. The second day was spent in discussion with their IT and business people, examining their goals in using a CRM system and how we could improve our product to help them achieve those. We will continue doing visits like these throughout the summer and fall.
We also use this kind of rich observational data to develop “personas,” which are fake, composite people that describe the groups of customers for which we design. With CRM, we focus on people in Sales, Service, Marketing, and IT, so our personas reflect those roles. Our research keeps those fresh and true to what’s happening in the marketplace, making them a valuable, informative tool as we examine the needs of specific customer segments.
On the quantitative front, we’re working on a CRM 3.0 user survey. We want to get feedback from folks who have deployed and used the product for several months now across all of our personas. Frankly, one of our challenges is finding those of you in the various categories in a cost effective way. I’m hoping that those of you who read the blog can help.
Action item: If you are a CRM 3.0 user, e-mail “firstname.lastname@example.org” with some brief information—name, location, company name, and phone number—and we’ll follow up in the next few weeks to see if you’re a fit for the survey. If you know someone else who is a 3.0 user, forward this blog/info to them and encourage them to sign up for the survey also.
We’ll update the blog with information about our user research efforts from time to time. In the meantime, I’m happy to take any questions you might have about our work—just use the comment fields below!
Senior Product Planner, CRM