Meeting your customers face to face

In the world of blogs, email feedback and focus groups, it’s easy to think you’re getting all the feedback you need to run your business. Very few Web companies bother to meet their customers face-to-face. Two notable exceptions are Yelp and Pandora.

I was at a Pandora Town Hall meeting last night, along with about 99 other Pandora fans. Pandora founder Tim Westergren took the stage to talk about his Internet radio company. It was part of a series of events he is doing around the country. The event in DC was so popular that Pandora added a second session.

Pandora Town Hall meetingThere were no flashy Jobs-style product demos. It was just a conversation among people who love Pandora. When an audience member asked about Pandora mobile, Tim tried to demonstrate it, but his phone was out of juice. A woman jumped up and offered her phone for the demo.

Tim talked about the struggles Pandora has faced: the dot-com bust, running for two years without cash to pay employees, dealing with the RIAA and the proposed changes to the compulsory music licensing fees for Web radio.

The Q&A was no-holds barred. Not once did I hear “I can’t comment on that” or “That’s proprietary.” People asked about the future of radio, potential new features and problems they’ve had with the service. From the tone of most of the questions, these weren’t geeks asking. They didn’t have blogs where they’d pontificate on Pandora. They were just Pandora listeners.

I’m sure that most people in the audience left with a stronger affinity to Pandora, both the product and the company. Tim left with a more energized user base and valuable feedback.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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