Happy customers are an essential part of a successful SaaS business. To make your customers happy, you need to understand how they feel about every aspect of the product experience, from onboarding through different aspects of usage, new feature releases and more. Customer feedback is a critical tool for understanding where you’re succeeding and failing. Companies that are more thoughtful and invested in their customers are often the most successful. Customer feedback will help you build a better product roadmap, make your customers feel engaged and valued, and turn those customers into advocates who will help you grow your business.

One of the most common ways to get customer feedback is through a survey. The standard approach is a landing page or email-based survey consisting of a bunch of form fields that someone is asked to fill out in exchange for a $5 gift card. This approach, while common, is a fundamentally broken process that won’t get you insightful feedback. To get meaningful, actionable feedback, you need to survey the right customers, at the right time, using the right approach, which you can do with in-moment surveys.

The best way to ensure the highest response rates, from the most relevant users, without having to provide a ton of extrinsic motivators is to use in-moment surveys. In this article, we’ll look at what in-moment surveys are, why they’re critical to the success of your SaaS product, and we’ll show you different ways to build and implement them.

 

What is an In-Moment Survey?

So what exactly is an in-moment survey? The critical characteristic is that you’re asking your users for feedback in their natural use of the product, i.e. when they’re experiencing the thing that you want feedback on. For example, if you’ve just implemented a new onboarding process, engage your users with a survey immediately after they’ve completed the process, asking them how difficult it was to complete onboarding. If you’ve released a new search function, target users with a survey once they’ve concluded a few searches using the new feature, asking if the results were up to snuff.

 

Why is feedback gained in-moment more valuable than the traditional landing page or email approach?

It’s easier for customers

We receive survey requests all the time. Most of us have a pretty negative reaction to seeing one of those “Dear customer” emails in our inboxes. We’re likely in the middle of doing something else when the request comes in, we don’t know how much time we’re being asked to commit and often we can’t remember the experience that the company is asking for feedback on.

By engaging with users or customers at the time that they’re having an experience in your product, it feels natural to provide feedback. It doesn’t feel like disruptive spam dropped in our inbox along with a million other emails that we’re likely to ignore. Done right, you can also make it clear to your users that one or two clicks is all that’s asked, which is a much lighter ask of the user, and one they’re more likely to complete. Rather than being viewed as disruptive, most users see these in-moment surveys as natural next step in the dialogue between their usage and your product.

 

It focuses on real users

We constantly hear that if we don’t get a certain volume of responses, then it’s not statistically significant. If your goal is to just to get some quantity of responses to your survey, there are a lot of ways to do that. There are even companies that you can pay to get survey respondents, but what’s the value in that feedback if it’s not coming from your users, the people that are actually familiar with your product and have a real opinion about its future direction?

An in-moment survey ensures that all responses are meaningful because they’re coming from real users of your product. Even better, they’re coming from users that you know have experienced the aspect of your product that you’re seeking feedback on.

 

It helps identify areas for product improvement

Building on the point above, survey responses from real users who have experienced the relevant aspect of your product give you specific and actionable feedback. You can use that feedback to prioritize the right items on your product roadmap to best impact the user experience.

Traditional survey methods often lead to users being asked to provide feedback on some aspect of the product that they’ve never experienced or don’t remember. This type of feedback can be confusing to interpret and lead to poor product roadmap decisions, having you investing a ton of time and resources fixing things that aren’t even an issue. In user research circles, this is often referred to as “shadow UX”, meaning insights that appear to be critical learnings, but are in reality complete red herrings that you give you a false sense of understanding.

 

It improves customer engagement and reduces churn

In moment, contextual surveys are a powerful tool for increasing customer engagement. They show users that their input is important, making them feel like valued customers. And for those customers who provide negative feedback, you can immediately reach out to them to better understand their frustration, address any issues of concern and communicate plans for improvements to enhance their experience. Together, these steps will result in happier customers and lower churn rates. The more you listen to your customers and incorporate actionable feedback, the more quickly you’ll be able to fix these issues, ultimately leading to a better product that users will be less willing to walk away from.

 

How to Run In-Moment Surveys

So you’re convinced of the value of in-moment surveys? Great! Now let’s cover some ways to make them most successful including using contextual triggers, choosing the right type of survey, where to use them and how to analyze the results.

Use Contextual Triggers

Contextual triggers allow us to ask users for feedback at just the right moment. Going back to the examples that we discussed earlier, if we’ve just introduced a new onboarding survey, the contextual trigger to deploy the survey would be something like “user completed onboarding = true”. It’s at that moment that the user will have the most useful feedback about the onboarding experience. 

In our new search function example, we might want to wait until a user has completed 3, 5, 10 or even more searches before surveying them, depending on the specific product in question. But it’s likely that just one search wouldn’t be enough for the user to have a real understanding of the new functionality.

Design the survey to ensure meaningful responses

Nobody likes long, impersonal surveys with tons of generic questions. That approach will lead to abandoned surveys and less valuable feedback from those who do respond. Instead, ask friendly, clear questions that are easy for users to respond to. Users are more likely to provide feedback if you make it feel highly conversational in tone. Another way to increase response rates is to ask as few questions as possible, each with as few answer choices as possible. We recommend using one primary question, followed by an optional free text response to gain deeper insights. You can always use more than one question if you want, but at the very least they should be presented one at a time. Users who see a list of questions are much less likely to respond.

 

Types of surveys

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but are examples of some types of in-moment surveys you can implement.

Customer Effort Score

Used to understand how difficult it was for a user to complete an action or task inside of your product. For example, asking a user “how difficult was it for you to complete onboarding?”, immediately after they complete onboarding. We recommend a seven point Likert scale with representative values from low to high of effortless, as expected, and impossible. By including a value of ‘as expected’, the user understands that not all tasks can be effortless. For example, running a marathon isn’t easy. However, many people still do them knowing that completing a marathon will be a challenge, and the amount of preparation a runner did will change the difficulty of completing a marathon.

Customer Happiness Index (CHI)

Asks a user’s satisfaction with a feature or flow after they have engaged with it. It could be customer support, any knowledge base articles, or specific features within the product. At Parlor, we like to use a 3 point scale of positive, neutral, negative, but it’s not uncommon to see 5 point scales as well. 

Feature Fit Index (FFI)

Asks a user how disappointed they would be if a specific feature or functionality were to disappear. Use FFI after the release of a new feature (e.g. 30-90 days) or after the user has engaged with a feature a certain number of times. This doesn’t have to be complex, in fact Superhuman uses this question and only provides two inputs, thumbs up or thumbs down. Check out this post to learn how to best use and understand the results of a FFI survey: One Question to Measure New Feature Success

Deliver surveys inside the product experience

There’s no better place to ask your users for feedback than right inside your product. It allows you to create a much more natural, conversational interaction with your users than say, sending an email. It’s also the best way to ensure that you get feedback at the time that users have the product experience top of mind. Even if you send an email right at the moment determined by the contextual trigger, there’s no guarantee that the user will see, open or act on the survey request at that time.

 

Analyze results across user cohorts

Not all users are created equal. For your feedback to be useful, it’s important to understand who is giving you the feedback. In some cases, you’ll want to only present surveys to certain user cohorts. In others, you may want to survey all of your users, but still analyze responses by different user cohorts. Examples of user cohorts include highest paying customers, free users, power users and new users.

 

How to Turn In-Moment Survey Results into Action

 

Trust the data

We often think we know what users really want. Our teams put a lot of effort into building the product and features, so we sometimes get attached to the things we’ve built. But to build a really great product, and to create happy, loyal customers, we have to trust the data, even when it’s telling us something that we don’t want to hear. Use constructive feedback to pivot your roadmap where necessary.

 

Look for trends

As you look at your survey results over time and across different features, what trends emerge? Is there consistently an issue that your users don’t understand new features? Do they find many aspects of your product confusing? Are the issues related to the interface, rather than the underlying functionality?

 

Prioritize feedback

If you’re doing a good job of engaging your users with in moment feedback, you’ll probably end up with a healthy backlog of roadmap initiatives. Where do you start? Prioritize your roadmap based on which users are impacted (e.g. highest paying customers vs free users), effort to execute and alignment with your long term product vision.

 

Use Real Time Feedback to Make Better Product Decisions

Now that you have meaningful feedback from the right users, collected at the right time, you can make much better roadmap decisions, ultimately leading to a better product and happier customers. You and your product team will have more confidence that what you’re building is what your users really want. If you ever feel that your “innovation muscle” has atrophied, just talk to your users. You will rarely come up with better ideas for them than they will.

 

Close the loop

One of the best ways to maintain a happy, engaged user base is to let them know that they’ve been heard, and that you’re working to improve their experience. Make sure to thank your users for providing feedback. As you prioritize features for development, show your users that their requests are on your roadmap. If users have made multiple feature requests, you can even ask them to prioritize those requests. Finally, once you’ve launched, make sure to thank your users in your announcement. By incorporating their feedback and ultimately addressing their concerns, you’ll create loyal, happy customers.