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Mako Design Podcast – Interview with Kevin Mako and Matt Selbie

Sep 8, 2022 | News

It was a pleasure chatting with Kevin Mako on a recent edition of his Product Startup podcast.

Kevin is Founder and CEO of Mako Design. They provide consulting for start ups, specifically a one-stop-shop for developing physical product from idea to store shelves. Mako specializes in all things product development to assist founders develop their product and take the idea to sales. So this is a new twist for us, as we almost exclusively deal with feedback for service businesses. Anyhow, the podcast is terrific and focuses on tips and the pragmatics for a founder to follow. Well worth listening to.

For those who want to skip the transcript – you can listen to the full podcast on Apple – here, on Spotify – here and Stitcher – here

So what did we talk about? AND do the lessons of customer feedback for service businesses apply to product focused start-up?

The bottom line…..mostly ‘Yes’ – so read on.

The Big Questions:

There were four main questions:

  1. What are the main product errors that can be assisted by customer feedback?
  2. How to best ask for customer feedback in the product development process?
  3. The best way for feedback be used at product launches or retail stores?
  4. How Opiniator help in the process of product development?


Question1 : What are the main product design errors that can be assisted by customer feedback?

Matt Selbie:

When a new product or service is created and refined there will likely be much that is unknown concerning customer preferences. This particularly so if that product is unique – rather than more of a copy. So it is understandable and likely tempting to second guess the market. It results in a continual addition to the original idea under the guise of:

Well wouldn’t it be cool to just add this feature??

  1. Almost certainly it won’t be cool!
  2. And undoubtedly you will be incorrect

This type of unstructured, compulsive second guessing is bad news for this business, as it then commits it to following wishful thinking and undeniable feature creep. We believe this is perhaps the gravest error that we most often find as help product design teams. So what is wrong with this?

  1. You are not the customer
  2. Neither do you don’t know what information you are missing
  3. And unlikely don’t know what to ask
  4. Or how to ask it to make it meaningful

So remember:

You are not the customer


So lets now assume you have asked some customers. One of the other errors we see is the overuse of open ended questions. Now we know they have their place to get colorful commentary BUT:
  1. More than one dissuades feedback as the effort is too great
  2. Even having one, forces respondents to have to do more work – so they might stop feedback altogether
  3. They are impossible to analyze because of semantics and definitions.

So the message is ‘Be Careful’ – and if you do have an open ended question, use it with numeric / rating questions AND make it very specific to the problem being solved. For example,

Please state the ONE feature missing from this product


What is the one feature we need to add that would make you buy the product

Big issues – hence we move on to the second question.

Question 2 : How better to ask for customer feedback in the product development process?

Matt Selbie:

Lets get back to basics here. Some of the questions you should be asking are:

  1. What don’t I know – OR – specific information am I try to find out?
  2. The purpose of the data collected – OR – How will it make a change?
  3. Who to ask for the above? (opinions are not equal)
  4. At what points are most meaningful to obtain this in product design?

The only information you should be requesting is going to be something you don’t possess and significant enough for it to make a difference. Moreover, the only people you should be asking are your target audience. Finally, the process should be at key inflection points when you need new knowledge or confirmation in the design process.

Don’t make feedback continuous as this tends to confuse and dilute. Moreover, there is a real danger of survey fatigue (though this can be avoided in 4 steps)

Question 3 : The best way for feedback be used at product launches or retail stores?

Matt Selbie:

Firstly – in many ways the ideal time to get feedback from customers is at the point of experience ie. the point in time when the product is being used or service is being experienced. So why is this? Simple – and for two main reasons:
  • The feedback will always be more accurate. Put another way – the greater the delay from the experience the more inaccurate the data received will be
  • Customer are more willing to deliver feedback as they are experiencing the product or service – PROVIDED ITS DONE RIGHT AND ON THEIR TERMS

After all, what is the probability of delivering accurate feedback one week after product usage? Much better for the delivery 1 minute afterwards, or better still, while the product is being used.

Secondly – make sure that the request for feedback conveys that the process will take no more than two minutes. We have found that for ‘out of home’, non transactional feedback, the drop off rate significantly increases after two minutes. This means you need to set expectation clearly up front stating:
  1. Who you are
  2. Why you want feedback
  3. That it will take less than 2 minutes
  4. (if you can) – commit to giving all respondents the results of the feedback, and the likely changes from this.
Thirdly – use ‘Key Driver Analysis‘ (sometimes called Vulnerability Analysis) – to narrow down how important a product attribute is and how well the current product is delivering that same attribute. This idea of asking two questions about the same feature is critical

An example for a product on a retail store shelf might be:

  1. How important is a safety lid for this product (1: Very unimportant to 5: Very important)
  2. What satisfaction level are you with the performance of our safety lid (1: Very dissatisfied to 5: Very satisfied)

The output is presented in a two by two matrix:

Key Driver Analysis

Use this to answer:

  1. What are the most important product attributes
  2. Determine how well the current product delivers these
  3. If the retailer present the product well to show the attribute (if not then retail camouflage will result)


Question 4 : How can Opiniator help in the product development process?

Matt Selbie:

Opiniator is a digital comment card system that captures ratings, comments and feedback from real customers using their own mobile phone – at any time throughout their experience. For product teams this means an opportunity to get objective feedback at the key milestones or decision points. This includes at tradeshows and of course, in retail stores.

The feedback process is longitudinal ie. changes over the course of the development process. This allows the product teams to collect data, but more importantly to act on that data before moving to the next stage.

Along the way the feedback can highlight
  • What is are the most important product features
  • Whether the current features meet the needs of the target customers
  • Other important features for target customers
  • Comparison of key features relative to competition for the shopper to buy it
  • Whether the product stands out at the trade show or retailer (more on retail feedback here)

In fact, the use cases are endless – and for this reason it is critical to enable real-time, in location shopper feedback. Signage always prompts the feedback as you see below:

Retail shopper feedback signage

A delight to chat with Kevin and we look forward to the next one. Remember you can listen to the full podcast by simply clicking on the image below.

Mako Design Product Podcast





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