The year was 2001 and Microsoft was getting ready to launch what would become one of the most popular pieces of software of all time – Windows XP.
While Bill Gates probably didn’t know that it would become the most popular operating system for over a decade, he was certain it would be a success. Why? Because for the last few years, he’d been making sure that everyone at Microsoft was actively engaged in collecting user feedback.
Every team from customer service, to engineering and sales, had been given strict instructions from the board to listen to customers and report anything back that could help their products succeed. And, with their ears firmly on the ground, they started hearing some interesting murmurs from the market.
“We want stability – we keep getting a blue screen of death when we run intensive programs”
“We want it to be so intuitive and simple that even my grandma can figure it out”
“I wish we could use our computer for more multimedia tasks like playing and burning CDs”
As more and more people from around the company started to hear scary similarities in the feedback they heard, Microsoft took action. The message from the top: the developers and product managers were to work closely to the remit of the feedback they were getting.
Gone were the grey-looking tones from Windows 98, and in was a colorful new interface that users were yearning for. A new ‘Windows Media Center’ was introduced for the family market and the developers added new drivers and performance fixes to create a more stable experience. All of this, and much more, was being driven by customer feedback.
The rest of course is a matter of history. Windows XP launched to rave reviews and is rumored to have hit over 1 billion lifetime installations, driving Bill Gates to become one of the richest men in the world.
Later on, Bill Gates went on to say that: “Software innovation requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.”
That may have been from 2001, but the principle still stands in the 2020’s – the more connected your product is with user feedback, the more likely it is to succeed.
In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways you can collect, use, and share feedback to (hopefully!) make your product as successful as Windows XP.
Step 1: Get user feedback
One of the biggest misconceptions when collecting feedback is that only certain teams (most commonly customer service), are identified as being able to relay it. The truth is actually that every customer-facing team should be involved in the feedback collection process. If you have account executives that conduct calls with customers, they’ll gain plenty of valuable insights, likewise, if you have a copywriter on the marketing team that writes customer case studies, they’re likely to hear useful feedback too. All of the information needs to be collected to make the best decisions for the product and for the company. If you end up reliant on just one team or one source of information, you’ll end up with an incomplete and often inaccurate view of how users perceive your product.
With that being said, there are literally hundreds of ways that you can collect user feedback, each with their specific pros and cons. Below, we’ve added a few of the best ones:
Customer interviews are perhaps the ultimate tool in a Product Manager’s toolkit for getting high quality, detailed user feedback. They’re particularly great for understanding the complete picture and building a broad understanding of what users are currently thinking.
How: Arranging customer interviews doesn’t have to be as daunting as it can at first glance seem. A simple email (which can be automated, although the particular email below was not!) or a post to your social media community can often produce great results. Check out our email below which we send to new users of our service:
When it comes to the actual interview, it’s best to have a list of questions you’re looking to cover, but at the same time, don’t stick rigidly to a script. Make sure to listen and respond accordingly. Start broad with the conversations to understand the general background before delving deep into the specifics. And remember, you’re there to listen – let the customer do most of the talking.
- Customers have the freedom to say exactly what they want to say – they aren’t constrained by choosing from boxes.
- When you hear feedback, it’s easy to follow up and probe deeper to get more information (“Tell me more...”).
- You get to understand the full picture, background, and story behind why a user is providing the feedback.
- Customers are often appreciative that you’ve taken the time to engage with them and listen to their feedback.
- Interviews can be time-consuming and hard to scale at mass.
- When you have a large number of users or different customer personas, you should make sure your interviews are representative of your entire user-base which can be tricky.
- The customers that are most likely to agree to an interview are already likely to be the most engaged with the product – and therefore may not be a representative sample.
- The data you get is qualitative so it can be harder to compile and analyze.
- The interview is only as good as the interviewer – make sure to ask the right questions and actively listen
- If customers try to soften their feedback, it can be harmful instead of helpful. It's not always easy to get unfiltered feedback in interviews.
In-app surveys are often an easy way to get feedback on very specific parts of your product. Commonly just a single question, but sometimes longer, they’re usually triggered by users taking certain actions within your app and being asked for immediate feedback on how their experience was. They can be great when you already have a hunch that there may be a problem with a specific part of your product, and you want that belief to be validated.
How: When considering what to ask and where to place in-app surveys, it’s often best to think about the places that users might struggle the most, or where key actions take place. There are many software companies that offer quick and simple solutions for doing in-app user surveys such as HotJar, Refiner, Usabilla, and Appcues.
If you’re using ProdCamp, which is free during our early access program, you can also add an in-app link to a ProdCamp roadmap to get upvotes and suggestions from users – with more features to capture in-app feedback coming soon!
- Quick and easy to launch new in-app surveys once your survey software is setup
- Can make it as structured or open-ended as you like
- Cheap to run and easy to scale
- Short surveys can get high response rates, resulting in reliable feedback quickly
- Need to ensure your questions aren’t leading or biased, otherwise, you may get inaccurate feedback
- To run an in-app survey, you usually need to install external software and may need to pay a subscription fee
On-Site Chats, In-App Chats, and Tickets
Gathering feedback from on-site chats, in-app chats and tickets can be the easiest way to pinpoint areas of improvement for your product. Why? Because users are most likely to contact if they need help or are unhappy about something, meaning that most interactions with users can be valuable learning experiences.
How: In addition to asking the customer service or customer success teams to note down any specific pieces of feedback, you can also get them to apply category tags to customer complaints using popular support software such as Intercom and ZenDesk.
For example, you can use broad categories to tag the type of complaints/support needed but then narrow the tags down to specific product features.
- If users are willing to actively provide feedback to support, it suggests it’s important to them
- Can be a good balance between specific feedback by looking at individual tickets and chats, but also the broader picture by looking at the tags
- Utilizes an existing resource – you’re already providing product support
- Can be time-sapping for support
- Usually requires the buy-in of any chat-based teams to be effective
Some companies use a dedicated email address and inbox to collect customer feedback and suggestions for improvements (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). This email address is then displayed in many different places where customers are (on the website, in-app, in emails etc). When customers send an email to it, all the feedback goes to a central inbox where it can be reviewed and actioned.
How: Setting up an email address can usually be done in a few minutes with your website host. ProdCamp is also looking at adding a new feature to create unique dedicated email addresses for users – with any emails received automatically appearing within ProdCamp as a new feedback.
- The email address is easy to share in multiple locations
- It’s fairly easy to setup and maintain
- Usually free or very inexpensive to create another inbox
- Takes more effort for customers to provide feedback than an in-app survey
- All feedback must be individually read and sorted – which depending on the volume of it, can take a lot of time
Public roadmaps show users the priorities of your product - i.e. what you’re working on, planning to work on, and what others think you should be working on. With public roadmaps, users get to upvote and comment on your plans, or propose their own solutions too. You can see our very own public roadmap here :-)
How: Some companies try to make do with project management software like Trello. It won’t surprise you however that as a customer feedback platform ourselves, we naturally advise that you try ProdCamp (for free) for your public roadmap needs.
ProdCamp is built from the ground up to be able to collect upvotes, comments, and proposals directly from your existing customers, prospects, and customer-facing teams – along with a whole host of useful features to help you prioritize and collect feedback too.
- By prioritizing what customers vote for, and only building features that they need, you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your development team
- The feedback and suggestions you gain are very actionable and solution-based
- Public roadmaps are a great way to make users feel involved and valued by the business
- When you can see the number of upvotes for different proposals, it’s easy to justify to users why some feedback is being acted on, while others are not
- Public roadmaps help companies to make sure they work towards their customer’s agenda instead of their own.
- Requires active involvement from your users to participate
- Can be used by competitors to get an insight into your priorities
Net Promoter Score is one of the most widely used metrics for understanding customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers are given an NPS survey with one simple question asking “How likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?”. Then, they are asked to provide a rating between 0-10 to score their answer, with 10 meaning they are most likely to recommend the product and 0 being the least likely to recommend it. With all scores collected, individual results are categorized into either detractors (scoring 0-6), passives (scoring 6-8) or promoters (scoring 9-10). The overall NPS is then calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
It’s important to note that NPS is not per se a great way to get specific user feedback as you can usually only analyze the scores and not the detailed reasons behind them (though occasionally an NPS survey may give the ability for users to leave comments in which case these can be captured and processed too). Having said that, an NPS survey can still be a good indicator of what’s working and what’s not if it’s triggered by a specific in-app action as the score can be tied to that particular part of the product.
We’ve included it here as it can still help you by:
- Understanding in general how customers feel about the product which can help to put other user feedback in perspective. For example, if you have a very positive NPS then any negative user feedback you receive is likely to be relatively minor compared to their overall feeling.
- Reaching out to a representative sample. If you’re going to conduct customer interviews or send a follow-up email, a net promoter survey can be a good way of being able to get feedback from people across the score range. For example, you could conduct 3 interviews with people that scored the company a “1”, 3 interviews with people that scored the company a “2” etc.
Step 2: Share user feedback with your team
Collecting feedback is just one part of improving your product, sharing it is the next. Unfortunately, many companies are adept at collecting heaps of customer feedback from social media groups, chats, interviews, and the like but never share it with the right people in the organization. Not only does this mean the best decisions aren’t being made, but teams end up feeling like “the left-hand doesn’t know what the right-hand is doing.”
Here’s a team-by-team summary of why the whole company needs to be involved in the feedback process:
The marketing team has the vital job of making potential customers aware of the product – and the only way they can do that effectively is if they understand the customer. Who are they? What are their pains and problems? Where do they hangout? Being able to answer important questions like these is essential to being able to create effective marketing and attracting the right customers to the product. The problem? A lot of the feedback they need in order to know this is gathered by other teams such as sales and customer service.
Summary of key reasons:
- To develop the right marketing messages
- To attract the right customers
- To create content that resonates with the target audience
Developing a product is typically very resource-heavy – it can take a lot of time and money to create, test, and maintain new features. For that reason alone, it’s essential that the Product Developers (and of course, Product Managers) are looped into user feedback. With access to user feedback, they can focus on developing what users actually want, ensure that their resources are being put to good use, and get insights that help the product stay one step ahead of competitors.
Pro Tip: One of the best ways to provide feedback to Product Developers is with user stories. According to Stormotion, a user story is a “small piece of work that represents some value to an end-user and can be delivered during a sprint”.
For example, a user story could be; “As a user, I want to be able to produce an in-app report in under a minute so I can get on with my tasks.”
The benefit of user stories is that they can be created based on actual user feedback to provide the development team an understanding of what and for whom they're developing it and how it will be used.
Summary of key reasons:
- To build features that users actually want and will use
- To create a product that’s better than the competition
- To prioritize scarce development resources effectively
The customer service team has a very important role in collecting feedback through their chats, tickets, emails, and other interactions with users. As users are most likely to contact them if they need help or are unhappy about something, most of these interactions are incredibly valuable learning experiences for the company and can result in tangible improvements in customer satisfaction when acted upon.
Summary of key reasons:
- To be able to capture user feedback and complaints that can lead to product improvements
- To relay the general mood of customers
- To know where they need to focus on creating more helpful content (help articles/videos) to assist customers
Sales and Customer Success
The sales and customer success teams bring in new business and seek to retain existing accounts. As such, during their conversations, they’re often the recipients of valuable feedback such as what’s holding back new customers from joining, or what’s motivating existing customers to want to leave. By collecting and sharing this information within the company, other teams such as the developers and marketers can act on it.
Summary of key reasons:
- To help the company understand the pains driving user acquisition and churn
- To inform other teams of the necessary improvements which will make it easier to persuade customers to join and stay
Data has no use without context. For Data Scientists and Data Analysts to be able to make reliable assumptions, predictions, and explanations, they need a grasp of the feedback that customers are providing. In fact, customer feedback can often be a reliable predictor of what future data will show – for example, large scale negative feedback may be a prelude to increased churn at the next billing cycle. Access to user feedback means that Data Analysts can produce better reports that lead to better decisions across the company.
Summary of key reasons:
- To understand the reasoning and context behind data trends and analysis they provide.
Step 3: Collate, share, prioritize and act on user feedback
The question you’re probably asking yourself right now is; if customer feedback is so important, how can we make sure our company has a way to systematically collect it, share it and act on it? And well...that’s why we invented ProdCamp!
ProdCamp acts as a central repository for customer feedback. It allows members of all teams to collect feedback, add it to ProdCamp and make sure it’s accessible to everyone within the company. Sounds good, right?
With the entire company collecting and sharing feedback, ProdCamp helps remove friction from the process and adds in some cool features that can help you prioritize and decide which feedback you should be acting on.
- Public and Private Roadmapping
Public roadmapping is a great tool for prioritizing which product features are most wanted by users. With ProdCamp you can create your own roadmap, allowing users to add feature requests, upvote, and comment on them, helping you decide which are most in-demand and should be acted upon first. As a result, you can continuously verify new feature opportunities, challenge your assumptions, and stay one step ahead of competitors.
- Prioritization Matrix
ProdCamp lets you visually plot your ideas based on effort vs impact so you can easily identify your priorities.
- Prioritize based on ROI / value, effort, and votes
Not all feedback is created equal. With ProdCamp, you can prioritize feedback based on your customer’s combined account value, forecasted ROI, the effort required, and feature upvotes.
- Create sprints
Ready to get the developers to take action? Create a sprint from within ProdCamp! In agile product development, a sprint is a set period of time during which development work is completed – and when it’s created from within ProdCamp, everyone from the company can see how feedback is being acted on.
Step 4: Feedback is a loop, not a dead-end
Remember, in a well-run company, the feedback process doesn’t stop after you’ve received it.
Think about it… Have you ever written a complaint or provided feedback to a company, only to be told “your feedback has been duly noted” and then swiftly ignored. It’s a terrible experience.
Regardless if you end up taking action on a user's feedback, it’s important to acknowledge it and follow-up with it, explaining the progress, along with why or why not it’s a priority to act on. Users will be extremely grateful, regardless of the outcome, and will be much more likely to provide more feedback in the future.
Any questions, let us know in the comments! And in the meanwhile, you can try ProdCamp completely free :-)