Feedback is going to define your company at some point or another, whether you want it or not.

Every single company story is one of customer feedback.

Apple heard (feedback) that computers (theirs, but moreso Microsoft’s) were perceived as complex and confusing. So they re-focused on devices that simply worked and /seemed/ simple. Candy-colored iMacs weren’t what Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak imagined in 1976, but they paved the way for Apple to possess more cash than the US government.

MySpace used to be top of the social networking heap. Nobody came close to them. They were on the tip of everyone’s tongue and on every teenager’s computer. But while they focused on partnerships, celebrities, and shiny features, they missed the feedback customers were giving them: MySpace is slow, there’s tons of spam, I don’t know these people. Facebook swooped in with a simple, less spammy, more personal product and utterly destroyed MySpace. The feedback was there. MySpace just didn’t listen.

Uber was born out of feedback. The founders knew that people were frustrated with the difficulty of finding a cab. They knew that those with more income (who also tend to have iPhones) would happily use an app to get a snazzy town car to them in 5 minutes. And they knew that the town car drivers would love to get work during their downtime. They built an app to serve this need, they adjusted it based on what their customers told them, and they’ve gotten tens of thousands of rides in just one year.

Uber responding to feedback on Facebook

And of course, every startup we hear “pivoting” to the next big thing is one that got feedback from the field…usually “I won’t pay you for this service”.

Especially when you’re a young company, feedback is the most valuable thing you have. It will tell you if you have a viable product, which means the difference between success and failure. And it’s relatively cheap or free; many people are happy to give feedback if you buy them a coffee or beer, and your customers will be thrilled that you want to listen to them. And, although she’s not your target audience, there’s always the “mom test”: if you describe your product to your mom, does she get it?

Whether you use a customer feedback tool or just sit down in person with people, make sure feedback is a huge part of your process. You have to understand your customers/potential customers before you even start to think about customer service (or anything else).