Too much to do and too little time (and money).

If you’re introducing or improving a product or website, you probably have an impossibly long list of features you’d like to fix, improve, or add.

Prioritizing this list is essential to the success of your product and potentially business. But what’s the best way to approach this?

How do you decide what to do first?

How do you know which fixes will generate the biggest bang for your buck– and have the biggest impact on the customer experience?

Here are seven techniques to help you along the way.  I discuss each in more detail in my upcoming book, Customer Analytics for Dummies.

1.    Determine your customers’ top tasks.

While websites and software interfaces might enable users to accomplish hundreds or thousands of tasks, only a few of those tasks drive users to visit the website or use the software or product. Before you can prioritize, you must find out which tasks your customers most want to do.

Technique in brief: Present some qualified customers with a randomized list of tasks and ask them to pick their top five. You’ll soon identify the tasks that your customers consider most important. Make it a priority to make these top tasks easy to accomplish.

More about Top Tasks Analysis

2.    Gap Analysis:  Mind The Gap… Between satisfaction & importance

After you’ve determined your customers’ top tasks (technique #1), you have a shortened, prioritized list of the activities your customers most want to accomplish on your website or with your product. Next, you need to find out two things: (a) how important your customers find each feature and (b) how satisfied they are with it after completing those tasks. Gaps between features that are high in importance but low in satisfaction are clear opportunities for improvement.

Technique in brief: Give some customers your list of prioritized tasks or features, and ask them to rate the items in order of (a) importance and (b) their level of satisfaction using the same 7 point scale. Next, use the following formula: Importance + (Importance – Satisfaction). This will reveal the “gap” or opportunity for improvement by feature.

More about Gap Analysis

3.    Kano Modeling: Distinguish the “expected” and “delighting” features.

The Kano modeling method can help you identify which features customers expect, which they don’t expect, and which ones will delight them.

Technique in brief: Ask a representative set of customers to rate how much they like features when the features are included in the product and how much they miss them when they aren’t included. The gap (you might call it the “satisfaction gap”) reveals which features customers deem essential and which ones they could live without but would delight them if included (think cupholders in cars in 1983 or Wi-Fi on airplanes today).

More about Kano Modeling from my friends at Userfocus and UX Magazine (coming soon from us too!)

4.    QFD: Integrate the customer’s voice with the company’s voice.

The Quality Function Deployment tool is basically a matrix that integrates the voice of the customer with the voice of the company. This matrix enables you to prioritize features by identifying those that best meet customer needs.

Technique in brief: Start with a prioritized list of tasks or features (from a customer top-tasks analysis) and combine this with a list of functions (from the company). A QFD ranks the features that best meets the needs of the customers.

More about the QFD

5.    Pareto Analysis: Separate the vital few from the trivial many.

A Pareto analysis (aka 80/20 rule), also used in the top-task analysis (technique #1), separates the vital few tasks or features from the trivial many. This technique isolates items based on very few criteria. For example: only 50 counties account for 50% of the U.S. population or 99% of the elements in the universe come from just 3 of 118 (3%) elements (oxygen, helium and lithium in case you were wondering).

Technique in brief: Sort the items in your list from highest to lowest (e.g. most votes in a top-task, most revenue, most customer support calls), add up the total, then compute the percentage for each item. Look for break points such as when a few

More about the Pareto Analysis

6.    Cause & Effect Diagrams: Identify the causes of key problems.

Cause-and-effect diagrams display possible causes of a problem. Since customer-experience problems are typically complex, this kind of analysis typically exposes multiple causes for each problem, enabling you to troubleshoot as effectively as possible.

Technique in brief: Generate a set of cause-and-effect diagrams by asking “why?” to uncover the root causes of problems rather than identifying symptoms of problems.

More about Cause and Effect Diagrams

7.    FMEA: Understand the frequency, severity, and impact of problems in the customer experience.

An FMEA (failure mode effects analysis) helps you understand the negative impacts of certain actions. It can highlight instances in which you can improve the product more by fixing what’s broken than you can by adding features. An FMEA can show you the frequency of a problem, the severity of its impact on the customer experience, and the difficulty of detecting the problem.

Technique in brief:  An FMEA generates a Risk Priority Number based on how common, how severe, and how difficult to detect a problem is.

More about the FMEA