There’s a lot going on when you are building a product.
You have to jostle for product positioning, clearly identify the product’s go-to strategy, and drive demand around that strategy to grab the attention of the customer. All these steps are necessary, and essentially that’s what ensures the overall success of the product.
What separates a successful product from the rest of the field is not just a clear product-driven strategy, but the attention that’s paid to customer feedback.
Most companies say that they listen to their customers, and it’s true to some extent. But the larger truth is that customer feedback is often ignored because companies do not know how to get it, let alone how to make product decisions based on it.
“Understanding your customers better than they know themselves (and your competitors) and transforming that understanding into actionable insight across functions is one of the only sustainable advantages left in competitive markets like software. It’s never been easier or cheaper to build product… that means great features are table stakes. One of the key ways to remain competitive is to level up your customer understanding and create more customer value, which will drastically improve the odds of you hitting your desired KPIs.
This means finding systems to collect reliable & accurate customer feedback, being able to transform those insights into concrete actions for product, marketing, sales, customer success, and growth, and sharing those insights cross-functionally.”
If we examine the fate of failed products, we’ll often find a failure to value and utilize customer feedback.
Kodak resisted the customer’s desire for digital cameras and Blackberry couldn’t provide cheaper models and powerful operating systems to its users. Netflix lost 80,000 subscribers and was rated one of the most hated companies in a survey when it ignored customer feedback and decided to split its DVD and streaming businesses!
Why Should Customer Feedback be a Focus For Companies – What Do Experts Say?
Actively listening to the voice of customers and applying what they say to your product development framework is a secret for success. This is how you address your users’ actual needs and build features that they really want. By doing this you’re not just improving engagement and success, but reducing churn as well.
Val Geisler, a conversion focused marketer in B2C space, shares her thoughts:
“Customer feedback is crucial at any stage in building and running a brand. One of the most overlooked stages, however, is in reducing churn.
If you know from talking to your customers that they need something in order to remain a customer long-term, that item might get moved up on your product development list. Sure, you might not do that for a single customer but if a large portion of the customers leaving your platform are doing so because of one missing feature that’s on your roadmap anyways, moving it up can save you, customers, you’ve already converted once.
It’s so much easier to retain already converted customers than it is to find new customers and feedback can help with that.”
Once you understand the benefits of customer feedback and how it can help your product to scale, you have to learn how to acquire it from your users.
“The feedback isn’t making its way back into processes – still – to be able to improve the customer experience or drive operational excellence, or brands’ feedback mechanisms are so structured that they don’t allow for unstructured data. And unstructured data analysis is where the real nuggets of insights are.”
Customer feedback surveys, feedback boxes, and usability tests are some of the ways to get qualitative data from your users. It is completely legit to be biased towards quantitative data; analytics and data will help you get to the bottom of what works and what does not. But qualitative data in the form of first-hand feedback is what will allow you to discover the ‘whys’ behind your users’ actions, something that Talia Wolf swears by.
A CRO expert and founder of getUplift, Talia has used qualitative feedback to optimize her client’s funnels over and over again.
“Without customer feedback, you’re essentially just playing a guessing-game and hoping for the best. Done correctly, customer feedback can determine the marketing strategy of your entire business, your tone and voice, your retention program and every single line of copy you write describing your product.
Most companies focus on being data-driven, looking at the numbers, analyzing the graphs and finding the leaks in their funnel. Challenges start when they try to fix those leaks and have no idea what changes to make.
Customer feedback (e.g – surveys, interviews, chat or questionnaires) is the roadmap to understanding the exact problem on the page, why it is happening and knowing how to fix it. I’ve been able to double, triple and 10X conversions for my clients using simple insights I received from customers.”
David Hoos from TheGood, a conversion rate optimization agency, approves of this approach and believes that it’s something that every product team should consider.
“What we’ve found is that customer feedback, often in the form of user testing or surveys is a vital part of the process of finding improvement areas. We can use qualitative (analytics) data to identify bottlenecks on a client website and then turn to qualitative data (user testing and surveys) that are focused on those problem areas to determine exactly why the bottleneck is occurring.
That in turn, allows us to develop smart A/B tests and experiments that increase website engagement and conversions.”
“We had a client that sold high-end artificial flowers that are sold for hundreds of dollars but never need to be replaced. They had a very poor conversion rate and it wasn’t clear why.
After getting some consumer feedback, we discovered that it wasn’t clear to visitors that they were artificial flowers until about ten minutes into their visit. We were able to test some better language to make it clear that these were flowers that would never die (we ended up going with ‘faux floral arrangements’) and their conversion rate rose dramatically.”
Thus, qualitative data holds a significance of its own. But what’s equally significant is the ‘when and how’ surrounding it. According to Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, a SaaS influencer and Community Growth at Zest.is, qualitative data is significant in increasing both response rates and the accuracy and quality of those responses.
She shared her in-depth insights on the topic with us:
“Modern customer feedback programs should include the following capabilities:
- Focus on core metrics that you’re able to track over time, like customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS) and customer effort score (CES).
- Surveys ask very few questions, and you’re confident they’re the right ones for the context.
- Surveys deploy at specific, strategic parts of the customer journey so you can capture the clearest, most accurate information on CX and friction in the moment, as the customer is experiencing it, rather than after the fact.
- Surveys automatically deploy at the right time in the customer’s lifecycle – ie. when they’ve experienced your product or service enough to provide valuable feedback.
- You’ve identified the optimal channel (e.g. email, in-app) to send surveys to achieve the highest possible completion rates by your customers segments.
- You let customers tell you what is important to them. This means fewer multiple choice or scale-type questions, more open-ended, free response sections.
- All survey responses trigger “follow-up” communications that acknowledge concerns and show appreciation for feedback.
The most challenging part — creating a customer feedback program that’s both measurable and actionable. It’s also where modern customer feedback software can make an enormous difference by enabling you to slice and dice CX metrics by your business drivers — be they geography, plan, persona, or other factor — so you can see what is really going on and how it impacts your business.
And the customer feedback process doesn’t stop when you get the answers. You have to close two loops.
First, your customers need to get answers from you, too. Some just require acknowledgment, a little appreciation for their time. Others warrant high-touch help. Modern customer feedback program means delivering the appropriate response easy, at scale.
Second, you need to close the loop internally. This means that data and insights are disseminated in systems of record and workflow of numerous departments. Cross-functional CX teams are are driving strategic change based on Voice of Customer insights.”
Putting Feedback to Use: Strategies and Framework
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This approach might have worked for Ford in his time, but not asking today’s users what they want can be detrimental to your product’s health.
We have so much data at our disposal that’s it’s a challenge to use or understand it to the fullest. While most companies sit in the gray area with their data, Salesforce reports that top companies look at an average of 17 different data points.
But does that mean that all the feedback deserves attention? What feedback actually matters? How do you decide what’s worth acting on and what should be ignored?
Intercom has a straightforward philosophy around this. The team believes that aspirational statements from customers and hypothetical and third party statements have little or no value, and hence the kind of feedback that should not rattle you. In fact, it is best avoided.
What’s more important is to ensure that you don’t fall prey to confirmation bias and dishonest feedback.
Clearly, putting feedback to use requires a clear strategy.
This creates two major challenges for the product team:
A) They should be able to make sense of the data
- Prioritize feedback from long-term and regular customers.
- Look out for unsolicited feedback, the kind that’s unprompted.
- Look out for the volume of feedback for a particular change.
- Pay attention to repeated feedback.
Recommended read: Making sense of customer feedback
B) They should be able to make it more actionable
Making data more actionable will vary from one company to another. However, the bottom line is to clearly summarize it in a way that makes it easier for the team to see the big picture and come up with an actionable solution.
Having evaluated the need for customer feedback, its benefits and the right way to seek it, let’s dig down and examine the various methods in which companies are using it to improve their products.
Case Study 1 – Zola’s approach of prioritizing its NPS detractors
Zola, an online wedding registry, used NPS feedback to substantiate their own hypothesis about what young, soon-to-get-married couples want as gifts. However, they focused heavily on the feedback coming from detractors.
Shan-Lyn-Ma, Zola CEO and founder says:
“When we launched Zola, the feedback that we got from detractors was straightforward: they chose a different registry because we didn’t carry enough of the brands they wanted. Only some of our promoters touched on this issue, and when they did, it was less direct. They’d be less matter-of-fact about constructive criticism — and usually only after couching it in some praise: ‘We love Zola and wish we could register with just you, but we need multiple registries to get all the things we really want.”
The team used this feedback to build a stronger registry and added features such as a ‘call us anytime’ facility for users who weren’t well versed with the online landscape, thereby improving their product offering and increasing adoptability.
Case Study 2 – Quuu’s approach of using In-app surveys
Matthew Spurr, Co-founder at Quuu, shared how they leverage customer feedback:
“It goes without saying that customer feedback is imperative to not only understanding your customers’ expectations, but also to how you mature your product.
For example, if you start to see your users regularly using terms that aren’t already written in your standard marketing, then consider inserting them in where appropriate. This will have several effects, it will make things more intuitive to understand on a first glance and it will make them feel understood and as though they are on the same wavelength. This is not something that immediately springs to mind when considering user feedback, but it’s certainly something that is worth baring in mind.”
Their strategy of using in-app surveys helped Quuu take better decisions about their product positioning. Matthew elaborates on the approach:
“At Quuu we run quick in-app surveys on a regular basis to gather user data that will inform our marketing literature and give us an insight, no matter how basic, into the minds and expectations of our users! We tend to use Intercom’s built in service for this, but in the past we have also made effective use of a simple TypeForm linked from an email.
Here’s an example of a recent study that we carried out:
This clearly tells us that the awareness of our users about using Quuu Promote to streamline promotional efforts and in order to reactivate old evergreen content was much lower than we’d like. So we can now focus on raising awareness of this in our ad campaigns and making it more prominent on the site. It was such a low level of effort to gather this data, but boy is it powerful.
Case Study 3 Shopseen’s approach of using In-app messages
Shopseen’s love affair with customer feedback prompted them to build a feature that their customers really needed. The team used In-app messages which helped them get ‘raw, in-the-moment reactions to product announcements.’ from their current users
This customer feedback helped them understand that many of their users were actively selling goods via social media channels, especially Instagram. They jumped to build an MVP quickly and got their most active users to beta test it for them.
By the end of the process, the company saw 20% of users identifying with the feature and integrating with it.
Case Study 4 – Zest.is approach of using qualitative feedback from emails
The numerous ways in which Zest.is uses customer feedback is remarkable. They use qualitative feedback from the emails to guide decision making for:
- Product Roadmap
- Messaging, positioning & branding
- Business model/s & revenue channels discussions
- Design and CRO
- Alpha and beta versions of all features and products
Nichole broke down the process for us:
“We communicate and collaborate with our Member Advisory Board of 78 members (and growing!) through emails, but not just any emails – we build a genuine relationship with our members and have real conversations with them.
A handy perk of us providing individualized emails for all members’ suggestions is that we can collect feedback in a personal one-on-one communication where a member can feel comfortable sharing.
This is also a great way for assembling lists of testers for new features we are rolling out, like we are currently doing with our mobile version.”
But that’s not all. The company has some innovative ways of acquiring feedback:
“We will eventually invite our super members to join us on our Slack in a channel that’s just for them. Here they’ll be able to reach our entire Zest team and get a response asap.
Our MAB (Members Advisory Board) was actually built by the community. We saw that members were discussing in Facebook groups and internal email communication (that were liked), about what should be done next for Zest in many terms (features / messaging, etc.)
We realized that members just wanted to be a part of the movement we created, so we started asking who wanted to be in the loop with almost everything we do, and the reactions were overwhelming.
Today our MAB is comprised of marketing leaders – CEOs / founders and VPs / CMOS – but also Junior to mid-level marketers.
We maintain a list of scoring and expertise of all the members in which we prioritize their feedback.”
Building products that your customers will love is a win.
Imagine being able to do it every time.
It’s easier said than done.
It’s not about building what you think would be revolutionary, it is about building what people need. Remember the quarter-inch drill?
I can’t emphasize enough on the benefits of customer feedback and how it can provide you with valuable insights on building a better product. All I can say is experiment with your approaches and listen to what your customers are actually saying.
Leave your comments or insights about customer feedback in the comments below!