Customer feedback is the key to making your product the best it can be. It helps keep your users engaged, and it helps you build a better product. But all too often, collecting and managing customer feedback is treated as an afterthought. A random NPS survey is sent out to a handful of users, and their responses sit in an Excel sheet to wither away and never be looked at again. This is how so many companies have handled customer feedback for all too long, and it’s an incredibly inefficient and unproductive approach. If you want to grow your business and retain your existing customers, then you need to know what they think about your product and services. You need customer feedback, and you need a strategic system for managing and analyzing it. 

Now, to be fair, that’s a lot easier said than done. Overhauling the way your company has always collected customer feedback and implementing a whole new system to gather, analyze, learn, act, and follow-up on feedback will take time and patience, but having a streamlined process and being able to better understand and act upon your customers’ needs will be well worth it. Let’s dive in.

What is customer feedback?

Customer feedback is any information that comes directly from your customers about your product. I know; duh, right? It may seem straightforward, but today, customer feedback can be shared in so many different channels that’s almost impossible to keep track of it all. If you have thousands of customers conveying their thoughts, opinions, and satisfaction levels through four or five different channels, it can feel like a tidal wave of information coming at you all at once that you’re supposed to sort through and pass off to the right person on your team. There are usability tests, in-app surveys, emails or phone calls, comment cards, focus group discussions, online reviews, customer interviews. Even listing them all out is overwhelming.

At the end of the day, customer feedback can come in many different forms, but it is essentially any information that a user provides you about their experience with your product.

Why is customer feedback important?

The CEO of HubSpot, Brian Halligan, once said, “If we don’t know what’s right, we can’t do more of it. If we don’t know what’s wrong, we can’t do less of it. Without customer feedback, we are destined to fail.” We couldn’t agree more. Collecting feedback from your customers helps you improve your product by providing data to help you make better informed business decisions and shows customers that you value their opinions. Studies show that highly-engaged customers buy 90% more often and spend 60% more per transaction. By measuring customer satisfaction and listening to what your customers are telling you about your product, you can create the best customer experience possible and strengthen your relationships with your customers, leading to improved retention rates, upsell revenue and referrals.

Properly collecting and managing customer feedback is the best way to ensure your customers feel valued, and to ensure that you’re building the features that your customers will actually use.

Types of Product Feedback Collection

Product feedback is exactly what it sounds like; any feedback from your users that is about your product. How it works, how easy it is to use, how satisfied they are with the experience. Typically, when collecting customer feedback about your product, you’re looking for their opinions on new features you’ve recently added, updates to your product, or your roadmap. 

Product feedback can typically be sorted into two different categories; proactive feedback and reactive feedback. Proactive feedback is information actively gathered from your users, like sending out a survey. Reactive feedback, then, is any information that a user sends in on their own volition, such as submitting a feature request or bug report.

Common ways to ask your users for product feedback include in-app surveys, feature requests, NPS, CSAT, and CES. Let’s break down each of these.

1. In-app surveys

In-app surveys are one of the easiest, fastest, and most natural ways to proactively collect feedback from your users. If a user just finished exploring your new feature, send them a survey directly inside your product asking what they think about it. The experience will be fresh in their minds so you can get reliable data, and it’s convenient because they don’t have to even leave your product to provide their thoughts.

2. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

We’ve all seen NPS in action (“How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend?”), and it’s commonly used to gauge your customers’ overall perception of your company. And while NPS can be helpful in certain circumstances, we actually think it’s not the best way to measure the success of a product. It’s not particularly actionable, and it can be impacted by many factors other than the  product itself (e.g. customer support or even your pricing model). If you’re using NPS to measure a product’s success, we recommend using aNPS, or actual Net Promoter Score. Instead of asking a hypothetical question, you instead ask, “Have you already recommended this product to a friend?” This way, you can get actual, hard data from your users about your product and it removes speculation from the question.

3. Customer Effort Score (CES)

The goal of a Customer Effort Score is to measure the effort required to achieve an intended outcome with your product or service. ALthough originally designed to gather feedback about service-oriented companies, CES can be just as valuable for software organizations, since customer retention is closely tied with customer loyalty. CES allows companies to identify the biggest points of friction that their users are having with their product so that they can add items to their roadmap to make the user experience smoother.

4. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

We’ve all received customer satisfaction surveys; essentially, CSAT shows a user’s overall content or discontent with your product. You ask your users to rank your product on a scale (1-3, 1-5, 1-10, etc.) and then you take the sum of the scores divided by the number of respondents. CSAT is typically used by customer and support teams, and measures a user’s satisfaction with your product or a certain feature inside of your product, so this metric is particularly effective in analyzing the overall success of a new feature launch or an update to a specific aspect of your product.

5. Feature requests

Allowing your users to submit feature requests is a great way to support reactive feedback. Your users’ feature requests can be used to understand what your users want from your roadmap. If there’s a certain request that you receive over and over again from many different users, that’s probably a clear sign that it’s something you should consider including in your product roadmap. Allowing your users to submit and prioritize their own ideas gives you better insight into exactly what they want and what they’re expecting to be coming down the road.

What is a customer feedback system?

Alright, so we know what customer feedback is and why it’s important to your company. So a customer feedback system is simply the process that allows your business to collect, organize, analyze, and act upon the feedback that is submitted. Having your users submit feedback is pointless if you don’t have a way to manage and develop actionable insights from it, so a proper customer feedback system is imperative to help you take all those pieces of information submitted through all those different channels and put it all in one place in a way that makes sense and is easy to digest. Once you have a system in place to aggregate all this information, it becomes much easier to see overall trends in your customers’ opinions and to incorporate the feedback into your roadmap development.

Systems can take many different forms. For example, an early stage startup might be fine managing customer feedback in a spreadsheet, as long as they have a well-defined process for it. But software solutions (yes, like Parlor – did we mention we have a free app?) can enable a much more efficient process as the volume of feedback grows.

Characteristics of a Customer Feedback System 

Customer feedback systems can vary wildly based on what your product does and what kind of feedback you’re looking to acquire. However, generally speaking, a good customer feedback system should have a couple key characteristics.

1. Comprehensive

Regardless of the type of feedback you’re looking for, you want your feedback system to be comprehensive. Consolidating feedback in one place makes the whole process easier for everyone, and allows you to manage, capture, and analyze multiple types of feedback across different touchpoints. Individual points of feedback scattered all over the place are useless for your team, so in order to gain actionable insights from feedback, you need a customer feedback system that is comprehensive.

2. Timely

Look for a system that offers real-time feedback and alerts you of any high-impact customer experience issues. Some feedback can be urgent and time sensitive, like if a certain aspect of your product isn’t working properly, so having a feedback system that alerts you of these can make your reaction time much quicker. This allows you to address the most pressing issues first and gives your customers a better overall experience within your product.

3. Relevant

Contextualizing feedback is a super helpful aspect of a customer feedback system. Being able to automatically send a survey to a user after they use a certain feature for the first time, or after they’ve been a user for a certain amount of time, can help ensure that you are receiving the most reliable data possible. Gathering feedback this way also allows you to segment your users into different populations. You can separate users based on how often they use your product, how long they’ve been using your product, or what aspects of your product they use, and compare the feedback and data received amongst those groups to give you specific and reliable data.

4. Engaging

Not only should a customer feedback system better engage your users (showing them that you actually care about their opinions), but it should also better engage your entire organization. From marketing to product management to customer support, a proper customer feedback system should empower every team to better understand your customers and unite them all around providing the best possible experience.

5. Actionable

What’s the point of collecting and managing customer feedback if it just sits in a system and nothing gets done with it? A good customer feedback system needs to be able to collect and analyze data in a way that gives you actionable insights into how your users are feeling so that you can actually do something to fix any issues they may be having.

Customer Feedback Loop

No matter what customer feedback system you choose, every good system should enable a good process for customer feedback. We refer to it as the Customer Feedback Loop. The Customer Feedback Loop is a simple and repeatable way to understand the process of gathering, managing, and analyzing customer feedback: Collect, Analyze, Learn, Act and Follow-up. 

By applying the Customer Feedback Loop, you can find out what your customers think of your product, what points might be causing friction, and how to incorporate their feedback into your product.

Here’s how it works: 

1.  Collect customer feedback

To kick off the Customer Feedback Loop, you need to collect, well, customer feedback! Gathering a myriad of feedback covering different topics can help give you an overview on what your customers are feeling about your product. Measuring overall satisfaction, customer service efficacy, and opinions about your product through scores like NPS, CSAT, and CES can give you valuable and easy to digest insights into your customer’s experience with your product. 

For more in-depth information, you can collect customer feedback through in-app surveys or feature requests. Instead of just a numerical value, this qualitative data can give you a deeper look into what your customers think.

2. Analyze the feedback

Once you’ve collected all your data, you’ll want to put it all in one place so that you can categorize and analyze the data for overall trends and information.  Are people generally satisfied with your product, or are they looking for more? Does your product work the way they expected it to, and was it as easy for them to use as they expected it to? Are most of the requests you receive minor bug fixes, or is there a deeper issue and a missing gap in your product that needs to be addressed? Analyzing your customer feedback will give you reliable data to answer all of these questions and help you plan out your roadmap by showing you which aspects of your product to focus on. Plus, we know that feedback takes many different types, and so different teams will need to receive different types of feedback. This is where you figure out which teams need which pieces of feedback.

Analyzing customer feedback can also show you if there is a knowledge gap among your customers. Is there an aspect of your product that people are repeatedly asking for that already exists? Maybe it’s time to put together a guide of how to navigate to it and take full advantage of it. What are the most commonly asked questions? Put them together in a comprehensive FAQ that you can send to new users during onboarding.

3. Learn from the feedback

As you’re analyzing your feedback, pay attention to trends in the data. Once you’ve identified what people seem to be struggling with the most, it’s time to come up with a plan of how to address the issues.  Identify your users’ biggest pain points and work together with your team to come up with the best solution for it. 

This is an important step in the process. It’s not enough to just collect the data and analyze it; it’s what you do afterwards that affects your users and their experience with your product. If 80% of your users are asking for a new feature, you need to work with your team to come up with an action plan of how you’re going to build that feature, or figure out a solid way to communicate to your users why you aren’t building that feature at the moment and what your users can do instead to solve the issues they’re experiencing.

4. Act on the feedback

So, you have your feedback, you’ve analyzed and identified the major pain points, and you’ve developed a plan to solve them. Now it’s time to put it to action! Share your findings with the teams that need to be involved. If it’s an entirely new feature that you’re adding, you’re likely going to have to work with marketing, sales, engineering, and product. The key here is to share the right information with the right team at the right time. For example, engineering and design teams probably need to be informed first so that they have time to build out what you’re asking. Then, marketing prepares the appropriate materials to promote the new feature. Then, lastly, your sales team needs to be updated so they can promote the latest features to their prospects. 

Once you’ve worked cross-functionally to launch this new feature, it’s time to let your users know! They’ll be excited to see that their feedback was actually listened to and taken into consideration and will be eager to test out the new feature.

5. Follow-up with customers who shared feedback

A good customer feedback system should allow you to track exactly which users submitted which pieces of feedback. Then you can follow up directly with those users who requested that specific new feature and share the exciting news that their request has actually been created. This kind of personal interaction is a fantastic way to engage your users and make them feel heard.

You should also follow up with any customers that explore the new feature or update, and ask how their experience with it was. And with this, the Customer Feedback Loop starts all over again!

Conclusion

At the end of the day, we know that all product teams want to provide the best experience possible for their customers. But often, teams will waste time building out features that don’t resonate with their users, and they aren’t sure how to go about properly collecting and managing their feedback. Plus, users will feel disconnected from the product because they feel their voices aren’t being heard and may move to a different product. By utilizing a proper customer feedback system, product teams can gather, analyze, and act on relevant customer feedback to incorporate it into their roadmaps and help them build a better product.