Responding to the voice of the customer: A peek inside product planningBy Integrity Windows
Today’s interview takes us into the world of product planning. Sean O’Halloran, marketing product planner for Integrity Windows and Doors, gives us a glimpse into the work of developing successful products that meet customers’ needs and innovating with an eye toward the future.
Builder Blog: Tell us about your job as a product planner.
Sean O’Halloran: As a product planner, I not only launch and release new products and options, I also manage existing products. The process of Integrity launching new products and options begins with those of us in product planning.
Gathering and understanding voice of customer (VOC) feedback is critical to successful new product launches. We have to ask, “How can, and how will, our Integrity product add value to builders and remodeling and replacement contractors?” To answer this, we need to really understand what our customers and potential new customers need to most effectively use our Integrity product. This feedback can come from a number of different sources – builders and remodeling contractors, our distributor partners, dealer sales reps, and Integrity and Marvin sales reps.
In order to best meet our customer needs, it is essential that we also understand what our competitors are doing, so we need to really understand their products and potential changes they may be undertaking. Not only do we need to understand their products, but we need to understand how their products and options are priced so we can be competitive in the market place.
There are a lot of other items that we have to be conscious of, as well: Energy Star criteria or the current energy tax credit (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) requirements are two examples. We need to understand programs of this nature and work internally with other functional areas to ensure that our products comply.
We gather, filter and summarize all of the above feedback and share it internally with our cross-functional project teams (R&D, operations, purchasing, etc). Clearly communicating that information to our project teams is critical to the development of successful products and options that meet customer needs and help acquire new business. Through the evolution of the product development process we have to ensure our product is meeting the identified VOC requirements and objectives identified at the beginning of any project.
My responsibilities shift focus as we get closer to the actual launch date of a product or option. I work with additional functional areas within our organization to develop supporting documents and literature pieces for the new product or option introductions. Training becomes critical as well. This can take form in webcasts in which I share information with distribution, or it could be an individual product review with one of our sales reps.
Product planning is fun and exciting. My work is always changing and I am always learning something new.
BB: What is the customer’s role in product planning? How does customer feedback factor in product development?
SO: The customer feedback is the most essential piece. It is critical. If we don’t have the VOC feedback I identified above we would completely miss the mark on our new product and options introductions. Key features and benefits, aesthetic preferences, performance requirements, installation nuances, sizing requirements, etc. are all examples of critical feedback that customers provide.
BB: Is there a recent new product that comes to mind that demonstrates that idea of addressing your customers’ needs?
SO: There are a lot of new products Integrity has recently introduced that have addressed our customers’ needs. One example would be our All Ultrex Casement and Awning, which was launched at the end of February. It is a high-performing product that aesthetically looks great. It meets the installation and sizing requirements that are critical in today’s challenging market. It represents another large step toward creating a comprehensive line of All Ultrex Series products that will be beneficial in acquiring additional business.
BB: What are a couple of developing trends you see on the horizon in the construction or remodeling industries?
SO: Delivery that is fast and complete. With remodeling and replacement opportunities more prevalent than in years past, timely delivery becomes even more paramount. We can meet these demands with our Integrity 10-day delivery. Also, higher performing products, in terms of energy performance, continue to be a major market focus. We have products that meet Energy Star and meet the tax credit requirements, yet we are looking years ahead to ensure we meet the increasing performance standards on the horizon.
BB: Can you give us a sneak peak into something you’re working on now?
SO: Without being specific I can tell you there is a lot that we are working on! Beyond that you will just have to stay tuned!