It was 1989 when 2 editors of Inc. magazine, George Gendron and Bo Burlingham made the nervous drive to Palo Alto, California. Not long beforehand they’d decided on who to name as Inc.’s Entrepreneur of the Decade, and finally, they would get a chance to interview him.
As they entered the offices of NeXT, their interviewee approached them. In his trademark jeans and turtleneck sweater, Steve Jobs led them up the stairs to his office and the interview commenced.
Securing an interview with Steve Jobs was rare, even in 1989. And, wanting to make the most of their time, the editors got straight to the point with their very first question:
“Where do great products come from?”
After a slight pause, and a shuffle in his chair, Jobs replied:
“I think really great products come from melding two points of view; the technology point of view and the customer point of view. You need both. You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”
Silence overshadowed the room. Three decades later, and this powerful answer Jobs gave is something that still isn’t often internalized in companies.
Collecting user feedback is incredibly important. As you’ll see examples of later in this article, launching surveys, asking onboarding questions, and conducting customer interviews are all vital tools for improving your product.
But the true lesson that Steve Jobs gave all this time ago was that user feedback isn’t as simple as asking what users want, or what they think about your product, and making those changes. You have to dive much deeper.
After gathering user feedback, it’s up to you to connect the dots and understand the real desires beneath the surface.
As Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying; “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse.”
What did his users really want? A faster way of getting from A to B.
User feedback may not have given the right solution, but it would have identified the deeper customer desire. Speed.
So as you read on and learn all about user feedback, bear this important lesson in mind – collecting user feedback is great, but the customer shouldn’t always be trusted to come up with the solution.
What is user feedback?
User feedback describes the kind of responses elicited from those who use your product. In fact, it’s a rather simple concept, though it’s not always the easiest to hear. Ideally, your consumer base will tell you exactly what you want to hear: that they’ve enjoyed using your product and will continue to in the future. However, constructive feedback is just as integral to the process of product development, and any company should welcome and use any criticisms to its advantage.
To receive the most helpful information, it’s vital that your company begins by asking the right questions. No matter the medium, surveying users should be able to realistically indicate the performance of your product. After all, it’s been made for a specific use; and given the opportunity, the users themselves will often tell you exactly what they think about it.
User feedback can primarily suggest changes and additional features for the product, as well as whether or not users experienced any difficulties (and on what scale) when trying it out. While all of these elements of feedback can provide the fuel for product development, the baseline question should always be whether the customer’s needs are satisfied by the product. Depending on a variety of factors, users might invest in a product that could use some improvement; but seldom will customers continue to utilize a tool that doesn’t do what they need it to – if there are viable alternatives. Of course, asking your users first-hand is the only way to truly gauge how they feel about your product.
Why is it important to collect user feedback?
The collection of user feedback might seem like a lengthy, unnecessary step until it significantly benefits your company. Naturally, understanding the pitfalls of your product or service by hearing from objective customers is going to generate honest and useful notes for implementation. With the application of these suggestions, your development team will ultimately refine the performance, presentation, and overall quality of your product–a product that users will be excited to use.
When users are satisfied with a specific product, they’re bound to continue using it, meaning better retention of current users and the possible attraction of even more. Customers that can trust what you provide builds the reputation of your brand, as well as the brand loyalty that often exists between users and user-focused vendors.
With modern marketing strategies, it’s vitally important that customers feel heard and valued–that the product or service they’re using is made and constantly being improved for them. If your company takes user feedback seriously, consumers will absolutely notice.
Additionally, collecting user responses also informs developers as to how the market can be accessed. If customers are likely to provide feedback using one platform versus another, brands receive better insight on which channels to use and what marketing content catches the eyes of consumers.
How should you build a user feedback strategy?
User feedback is clearly important in the product development process, but it’s easy for companies to get stumped on how to do it. Remember, how and even if you request feedback is a very telling representation of your company and how it values its users.
To start, a well-crafted strategy should maximize the quantity and quality of user responses. And yes, it’s harder than it seems. With as many products, services, and tools that we employ in our professional, academic, and personal lives, to say that we get bombarded with requests for our feedback is an understatement. In any form – whether an app that asks for a rating of 5 stars or a survey that’s emailed to you at the end of a subscription – these surveys are everywhere. And to be perfectly frank, it’s much easier to click away from them.
Similar to a marketing strategy, a user feedback strategy needs to be carefully created in order to achieve the desired results. This means asking for feedback at the right times. Users will certainly need ample time to use the product and give accurate feedback, but a company shouldn’t wait so long that the customer can’t remember their buyer and user experience. Aim to ask for feedback right after purchase – perhaps even provide the incentive to respond, like offering a discount or addition to their next purchase of the product.
Reassure your customers that their response is highly valued to your team and instrumental in product development, but most importantly, will only take a moment. With that said, keep your promise. Strive to make surveys as quick and simple as possible, or else you’ll be left with few usable responses.
All in all, asking for user feedback reinforces the idea that your company is there for them. Checking in after purchase indicates that you care about customer satisfaction, and of course, consistently improving your product or service.
What types of feedback exist?
With so many touchpoints available to make contact with your users, many types of feedback exist. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular ones, providing some real examples that should give you inspiration on how to implement these strategies within your own company.
Sometimes a potential customer doesn’t persist with the purchase and will give an explicit expression as to why. Aptly named sales objections, these little pieces of feedback show how beneficial consumer perspectives can be – even without their purchase of your product.
In the tech sphere, sales objections can commonly be gained from demo calls, customer service interactions, and at the end of product trials.
Below is an example from a popular time-tracking app called Atto:
After providing a 14-day free trial, they’ve harnessed the power of email to ask why the user didn’t upgrade to a paid plan. Was it because they found the setup too complicated? Were some important features missing? Or did the user simply not have enough time?
Either way, by automating this email as part of their trial sequence, they’re likely to find out!
As the phrase suggests, onboarding feedback describes the kind of responses you may get from customers who are just starting out with your product, tool, or service. It’s inarguably one of the most telling pieces of user feedback a team can receive, as it sets the tone for future purchases and interactions with your company. If the onboarding process is smooth, customers will likely adopt the impression that they can continue to expect professional, quality service from your business. On the other hand, if the experience is rather bumpy, first-time users could switch to other product alternatives.
Beyond rating their experience, the onboarding process can also be a great way to collect valuable data and feedback in order to improve your product and marketing.
Practice Ignition, a software company that specializes in making it easier to create proposals, asks several questions of new users such as their company industry, the accounting system they use, and what currency they bill clients in.
Information like this can not just be used to tailor the existing product experience, but to shape and prioritize future product updates.
User feedback surveys
Surveys of this nature are probably what you first envision when you think of user feedback. After a specific amount of time after purchase or signup, customers will receive a request to answer some questions about their experience and whether or not they have any suggestions.
This is one of the most straightforward ways to gauge customer satisfaction with your business’s overall service or a particular product or tool they’ve tried.
With surveys becoming so widespread, companies are often trying to incentivize people to respond. Take Zapier for example, which offers the chance to win a $500 gift card for answering their survey:
Similarly, Stripe offers to donate $10 to a charity of their users’ choice in return for completing their own survey:
Survey incentives don’t have to involve money. Instead, you could include a week’s free use of your product or a time-limited product upgrade that will have tangible value to your user, but a negligible cost to the business.
Email feedback is yet another accessible way for your users to give their two cents. It’s common for an email to be scheduled for a particular amount of time after purchase. In this email, customers might find a link to a brief survey, an embedded questionnaire, or maybe even an invitation to share open-ended responses by simply replying to the message with their thoughts.
Depending on the scale of your company and the amount of user feedback management it handles, a survey tool may be the best route to collect, organize, and analyze the responses you get. However, if the size of your consumer base allows you to reach out personally, your team has a good opportunity to engage in a direct dialogue with customers.
Emails are by far the preferred method for Product Managers. They’re easy to send at scale, measurable, and arrive instantly. You can also trigger them to be sent after specific events within your product take place, making feedback received more relevant.
In the example below, one of Money Dashboard’s Product Managers is sending an email to pro-actively obtain feedback about a new product they’re looking to launch:
User contact forms
It’s always a great idea to allow users to come to you with feedback. And it’s quite easy for a website of any purpose to contain a suggestion or contact page with fields for an individual to submit their personal contact information (e.g. name, email address, phone number) along with their comments and ideas.
While you could create your own dedicated page for suggestions, you could just as easily add an input box asking for any feedback to your existing contact form.
Moreover, your contact or demo form may already be collecting valuable feedback from users without you realizing it. Spendesk’s demo form doesn’t just ask for the contact details of prospective users. It asks for their company size too.
Not only is this valuable feedback for the purpose of arranging a demo call, but it’s the feedback that can be given to Product Managers to ensure the product evolves to fit their users’ needs. After all, a product built to cater to large enterprises will be different from the needs of small businesses.
Getting inside the mind of your users has never been easier with the advent of usability testing.
So what is it? Hotjar – the kings in this field – describe usability testing as ‘the act of testing the functionality of a website, app, or other digital product by observing real users as they attempt to complete tasks on it’.
Ideally, usability testing will reveal weak points of the product, but it can also reaffirm successful features that users may depend upon. Like general user feedback, usability testing provides a fresh look to a product the company may have grown biased towards so that it can continually improve.
Below is an example of what a real usability test on Hotjar’s website looks like:
Using the software, Product Managers are able to replay how visitors interact with their website. From where they scroll, where their direction is focussed, and which pages they visit. All of this provides valuable feedback that can’t otherwise be easily expressed with numbers, statistics, and charts.
Exploratory user interviews
Customer interviews take the unique form of one-on-one conversations about a product. Unlike several other types of user feedback, this format gives the opportunity for a face-to-face with the customer, and ultimately, a better opportunity to fully hear their thoughts on the given product.
On its own, capturing user feedback is certainly an indication that your company cares about customer satisfaction and the development of its products, but an exploratory user interview enables your team to connect with them on a closer, personal level.
If you’re considering launching a new feature, or upgrade to your product, they can be invaluable for understanding if you’re on the right track.
When Advisable decided to launch a new product called Advisable Guild back in 2020, they wanted to make sure they properly understood their users. So what did they do? To start with, they introduced their concept to their existing users via email. Within the email, they included a link for anyone that was curious to register their interest.
Anyone that was interested was personally emailed and invited onto a 1-1 call to learn more about it and gain feedback for their idea:
Not only did this help them launch their product success, but it helped them attract their first users.
Though one of the most informal contexts of user feedback, social media is a playground in which customers can publish their thoughts, questions, and general responses to a specific product. Oftentimes, customers don’t need to be prompted with feedback requests, as companies can scour popular social media platforms, forums, and keyword searches to uncover reviews of a product, tool, or service.
Companies can expect the most engagement in this realm, but it’s not always as contained as other forms of user feedback. However, any response you can collect from a consumer is valuable to the ongoing process of product development, and social media is an autonomous breeding ground for this kind of commentary.
Gathering and listening to feedback from social media has other benefits too.
According to Oberlo, 71% of consumers who have a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family. And a 2017 survey by Clutch, found 52% of businesses feel that social media positively influences revenue and sales.
In fact, many companies are now capitalizing on this by creating their own social media groups and directing users to provide ideas, feedback, and interact with each other.
Take Client Portal. As part of their onboarding email sequence, they invite new users to join a private customer-only Facebook group:
Once inside, a quick look through the group shows many posts from users that are providing product feedback and suggestions for new features:
A vital part of capturing valuable user feedback is catching the respondent when it’s most convenient for them. Though many surveys and questionnaires may exist on an independent platform, some services allow for companies to embed on-site customer surveys to gather qualitative information responses to their websites, products, and so on.
Ultimately, on-site activity serves the same purposes as virtually any other form of user feedback; it just strives to catch customers while they’re already engaged with website content. Subscription services like Mouseflow and HotJar enable teams to create interactive surveys for custom audiences, giving them a direct way to communicate if and when an issue arises.
The popular project management tool Monday uses this to good effect. If a user stops scrolling through their site or tries to close their tab, they quickly ask why they didn’t signup!
Again, convenience is key. The quicker and easier it is to provide feedback, the more likely it is that your team will receive substantial amounts of it.
With that said, in-app feedback is exactly what it sounds like; it describes quick surveys or questions that prompt users to give a response within an application
This format is particularly popular among mobile users who are willing to take a minute to offer their thoughts on the functionality and performance of your app.
Oftentimes while using an app, a pop-up will appear asking a quick question:
For the popular ride-sharing app Grab, this is as simple as asking a user to quickly tap whether they enjoy or don’t enjoy using it. With millions of active users, this is a very easy way for Grab to understand how users are feeling at any given time.
Perhaps even simpler than in-app feedback collection is conducting an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey. NPS is a specific measurement of customer satisfaction and loyalty, measured by asking one simple question:
"How likely are you to recommend NAME to a friend or colleague?"
Users provide a rating between 0-10 and optionally can leave comments.
You can read more about how NPS scores are finally calculated in our article about B2B SaaS Metrics and KPIs.
In the example above, you can see how Wise conducts NPS surveys among their users from within their app. Though, it’s also commonplace for NPS surveys to be sent via email too. Hand in hand, feedback, and ratings give more easily digestible data for product teams to analyze, and sometimes, an explanation for their users’ ratings.
Public review sites
According to Qualtrics, 93% of consumers say that online review sites influence their purchase decisions. So not only is this an important source of user feedback, but it’s an important place for your company to actively monitor.
While it’s not a form of direct communication with the company in question, it’s definitely a piece of user feedback that teams can still use. Many companies will even take the time to seek out reviews about a particular product, thank the reviewer, or attempt to rectify the situation if the reviewer speaks of a negative experience. How’s that for being proactive about reeling customers back in?
The most popular review sites vary by industry. However, in the world of technology, they typically include; G2, ProductHunt, Capterra, GetApp, and TrustRadius. Plus, if your app is available on mobile, don’t forget to check your reviews in the Google Play and Apple App Store too.
It’s not uncommon for customers to resort to a product alternative, and companies must get comfortable with understanding why it sometimes happens. With churn reasons, customers are able to elaborate on exactly why they plan to stray from using a given product.
While churn reasons first and foremost explain changing needs, they can also illuminate negative experiences with a product. Feedback of this kind provides the opportunity for product teams to know exactly what kind of standards their product must meet in order to remain competitive.
There are a couple of common ways that companies collect churn reasons.
Speechify redirects users who have already uninstalled their app to a simple form, and asks them to describe what caused them to leave.
But if you want to prevent users from churning in the first place, it’s a good idea to be proactive. These days it’s common practice for customer service assistants to be trained to specifically ask for churn reasons when customers ask about canceling their service.
Feedback after an interaction with customer support
Wherever possible, companies should strive to get as much insight on every angle of their process as they can. This includes requesting feedback after a customer’s interaction with their support team. Though it’s not inherently reflective of the performance of your product, the quality of your team’s customer service can indicate potential workarounds for existing issues within the product.
iPage gets feedback by immediately redirecting users who end their live chat conversations to a short survey.
If your company already uses popular chat software such as Intercom, you should easily be able to do the same.
On the other hand, if you’re not using live chat on your website, perhaps you’re automating conversations with a chatbot instead? (For those that don’t know, chatbots simulate realistic conversations with customers on apps, websites, etc.)
In addition to providing customer support at scale, chatbots have the power to ask for feedback, primarily triggered by a user action or at the end of a conversation.
For example, when users go to Drift’s pricing page, their chatbot springs into action, asking what brings the user there. Are their prices too high? Is all the information they need on the page? Is something holding them back from making a decision?
This tactic can easily be replicated amongst other webpages, and with in-app triggers. Say a user completes a key action in your app, your chatbot can ask them how they found it.
What should you do with negative feedback?
We know, it’s not what you want to hear, but not everyone will fall in love with your product (or at least not right away). Instead of taking negative feedback only for what it appears to be, spin and interpret it as a way to improve your work. After all, a lack of constructive criticism leaves you with little objective insight to build upon. Sometimes it takes a less-than-stellar user experience to help your company fill in the gaps with meaningful improvements to your product, tool, or service.
However, the customer feedback process is usually already tilted towards identifying the pain points of your product, meaning the difficulties or frustrations they may endure while using it. When these are brought to your attention, take advantage of the opportunity to “win back” the user. If they’re taking the time to leave a review of their experience, it likely means that customers will be receptive to giving your product another go after some improvements have been made. Show your consumers that you’ve heard them loud and clear and try gauging their interest again after working out some kinks.
Studies have shown the prevalence of a service recovery paradox, a phenomenon in which customers become more loyal to your business after you rectify or compensate for a negative product or service experience. This, of course, can only occur if a company owns the mistake or issue at hand and attempts to repair the relationship it has with the unsatisfied customer.
Either way, user feedback really can result in happy customers and companies, as long as developers are willing to invest in the improvements of their products, service, and customer relations.
What should you avoid when collecting user feedback?
If you want to prove it useful and effective, user feedback should be followed with additional steps. Obviously, when a customer provides their valuable opinion on their experience with your product, it should be treated as such. Otherwise, your team is missing out on a fantastic opportunity to better appeal to your consumers in your market. Not that every piece of feedback must or even should be applied, but it should, at the very least, be considered. When your product team identifies the most helpful suggestions, they should be translated into actionable improvements and prioritized for implementation as soon as possible. The less time it takes to make recommended changes, the likelier it is for your company to retain more of its users.
Yet another mistake commonly made by product development teams is a lack of internal communication about user feedback. It’s quite important that all necessary parties are aware of the areas of improvement in their work so that it can be addressed on all fronts. Remember, this is a company, a brand. It’s important that if one feature is being implemented or tweaked in one area, there should be a continuity of improvement elsewhere; or else, your product isn’t progressing as steadily as it could be.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is for companies to remember to follow up with customers. Yes, there are so many things to think about when it comes to user feedback management, but checking back in with respondents is a rather simple way to regain their attention. Send a friendly notice that improvements have been made and that you’d like for users to see the manifestation of their feedback. Not only is it such an easy way to draw users back in to witness the progress of your company; but in instances of negative experiences, it’s the first step to the service recovery paradox.
What tools should you use to capture user feedback?
There are a plethora of digital tools your company can employ to efficiently capture user feedback. Remember, the survey itself doesn’t need to be elaborate – it just needs to ask the right questions and evoke valuable responses.
Perhaps one of the most hassle-free tools is as simple as Google Forms. In just a few steps, you’ll have a customized survey ready for dissemination to your customers. With this format, you can easily create a form; add or edit text or media; as well as send or embed a link to the survey. The greatest advantage? Google Forms is widely recognized and trusted as a feedback platform, so users may be more willing to complete any survey you publish under this format. Better yet, you can program your form to export responses to Google Sheets for effortless organization.
Yet another format you have at your disposal is Typeform, a product that excels in conversational data collection. With different tiers, Typeform allows companies to customize their user feedback experience with the respondent’s first name and personalized follow-ups. Like Google Forms, it’s accessible on all devices and has an intuitive build space for surveys. Perhaps the biggest plus is that it’s a bit more versatile than other platforms in terms of design options and allows its users a variety of survey structures to choose from.
ProdCamp (us!) allows for multi-channel feedback tools nearly everywhere your users go. Using the insight of customer data, you can process and analyze their feedback based on their experience with your company and products. Make it easier than ever for customers to tell you what they think about your work using integrated survey features, including that of our Google Chrome extension, embeddable JS widget, and more. Get back to your customers with your latest updates and send notifications upon releases and feedback lifecycle events.
While the work of capturing user feedback doesn’t have to take a lot of effort, it can yield so much insight into your next steps in product development.
Best practices of user feedback management
Capturing useful feedback
Collecting input from users is one thing, but maximizing its potential is another. Your company should strive to pinpoint the most accessible and appealing modes of surveying, as well as optimal times to survey users. Small details done right can be the difference between a swath of helpful responses and little to nothing at all.
Analyze and categorize user feedback
Capturing feedback really is just the tip of the iceberg. As we’ve stated, how you then use responses can make or break the progress and reception of your product. For sake of organization, take the time to categorize the data you receive by device, subscription type, and other details that commonly present themselves.
Say your company has developed and run a project management software that is available on your website and a mobile app. It might be helpful to recognize that some users are commenting on the product as it exists in several different formats. If a bulk of your customers note a repetitive bug while on mobile, your team now knows to focus its energy on smoothing out any problem areas in this format. However, in order to get this kind of information, it’s important that your survey includes format-specific questions.
Act upon user feedback
The best way to show that your team is taking user feedback seriously is to work towards implementing it, if at all possible. Ensure that the time invested in user feedback analysis is well-spent by making changes to your product accordingly. Remember, capturing user feedback isn’t just a courtesy towards your customers, but also an incredible (and free) way to amp up the performance of your product, tool, or service.
And lastly, keep Steve Jobs’ lesson from the introduction in mind. Acting upon user feedback may not mean following their prescribed solution, but taking the essence of their problem and innovating your product to solve it.
Follow up after making updates
Show off the progress you’ve made on your product, especially when your users have played a part in its development. Additionally, users might be more inclined to provide feedback after trying out updates they might have suggested. Keep in mind, user feedback management isn’t a one-time deal; but rather the continual act of checking in with your customers for the sake of an optimized product.
All in all, there are endless avenues to collect and act on user feedback, but it all comes down to tailoring the experience so that users feel heard and your team gets the feedback it truly needs.
Want to turn user feedback into revenue? Make sure to try ProdCamp, our all-in-one tool for collecting, analyzing, sharing, prioritizing, and following up on feedback!