User feedback is a topic that we’re incredibly passionate about at Parlor. So we work with hundreds of SaaS teams to understand why user feedback is so important, how they manage user feedback, what approaches work well and where companies run into challenges. In this article, we’ll cover what user feedback is, why it matters and some approaches to collecting and managing user feedback.

What is User Feedback?

User feedback is any information collected from users or customers about their experience using your product or service. This user feedback can be either proactive, that is, you solicit it from users, or reactive, meaning that your users sent you the feedback unprompted.

Feedback can come from many different channels and in many different forms. Types of feedback include things like bug reports, support requests or suggestions about how your product can be improved. Channels include live chat, in product surveys, email, phone and more. After collecting feedback, it’s then used by various teams to improve the user or customer experience.

Why is User Feedback Critical for SaaS Businesses?

With the market for SaaS products more competitive than ever, your prospects and customers have many alternatives to using your software. So how do you attract new customers and ensure that your existing customers are happy with your product? One of the most effective strategies is to constantly improve your customers’ experience by making the most of the user feedback that they provide. After all, they’re the ones using your product every day.

In addition to making your product better, faster, responding to your users’ feedback will keep those users more engaged. You show them that you value their input and that your product is a living, constantly improving thing. We’ve all provided some sort of feedback to the products and services that we use in our day to day lives. And it’s incredibly frustrating to provide that feedback and get no more than a “Thanks for your feedback” and then never hear another thing.

Well a much better approach is to keep your users in the loop and provide transparency on the process. We’ll talk more below about how to do that.

Who is Responsible for Collecting (and Acting On) User Feedback

This is where we can introduce the relationship between the customer and product teams.

One of the best ways we’ve found to properly collect user feedback and incorporate it into the product development process is to take a customer-centric approach. Customer-centric is an approach to doing business that focuses on providing a positive customer experience both at the point of sale and after the sale in order to drive profit and gain a competitive advantage. This type of approach relies on identifying pressing customer needs or challenges and building a solution to resolve that pain. Iterating on the entire customer journey and understanding what would give the best possible customer experience is key to driving customer loyalty.

So who’s actually responsible for collecting and acting on all this user feedback to ensure customers remain happy? Does customer-centric mean responsibility is only on Customer Success? Or does Product have to go out of their way to start calling customers up to hear their thoughts? The honest answer is that it’s a team effort. Both Customer Success and Product are responsible for working together to collect actionable customer feedback throughout the customer lifecycle journey.

When to Collect User Feedback

While you should always be listening to your users and responding to their feedback, there are some specific times when feedback is particularly valuable.

Pre-Product

In the earliest stages of creating a new product, before you’ve even begun to build, you probably have a strong conviction of the unmet need in the market that your product will solve. So while you won’t have a real product for users to test and provide feedback on, you should still get input from the types of customers that you’re building your product for. At this stage, you can conduct user interviews with those target customers to validate your concepts. As you move from concept, to things like wireframes or prototypes, you can gather more feedback to refine your vision. The feedback that you gather will help you get much more quickly to a minimum viable product and the folks who participated in those early interviews are a great source of early business.

Roadmap ideation and prioritization

As your product evolves past the MVP phase and you have a base of real customers using it every day, you need to allocate your resources to building the most impactful new features and improving existing ones. So leverage user feedback to help you understand where your product can expand into new functionality. You users’ feedback will also help you understand which existing features can be improved to provide more value to your users. We’ll talk more about this below, but a good feedback management system will then help you weigh and prioritize those new feature and feature improvement requests, so that you can work on the most impactful ones first.

New feature development

Then as you build the highest priority new features, you’ll want to solicit input from your users to see if how you plan on building them resonates with your users. You can use feature previews to put early wireframes or mockups of the features in front of your users and get feedback to help you refine them.

Continuous improvement

Over time, your product will grow more feature rich, but also complex. At this stage, feedback will help you continuously improve your product and features, so that your product can evolve with your users changing needs. An often overlooked aspect of this stage is to be sure that you’re not letting your product get bloated. Your users can also help you understand which features or parts of your product aren’t valuable, so that you can cut these to provide a streamlined product experience.

Continuous improvement

Over time, your product will grow more feature rich, but also complex. At this stage, feedback will help you continuously improve your product and features, so that your product can evolve with your users changing needs. An often overlooked aspect of this stage is to be sure that you’re not letting your product get bloated. Your users can also help you understand which features or parts of your product aren’t valuable, so that you can cut these to provide a streamlined product experience.

Types of User Feedback

As we mentioned in the intro, feedback can come in a few different forms including proactive feedback that you solicit, reactive feedback that your users provide, unprompted, and ongoing feedback.

Proactive

Proactive feedback is feedback that you actively solicit from your users or customers. This can include things like the NPS surveys that we’re all familiar with (more on those below). Or more specific questions focused on aspects of your product experience, such as onboarding. Generally proactive feedback is designed to help you understand a specific aspect of your users’ experience.

Reactive

Reactive user feedback is that which comes unsolicited from your users or customers. Some of the most common examples are things like bug reports or support requests. For example, a user tells you that they keep getting logged out of your product. Or the new feature that you just released isn’t working the way that it’s supposed to. Because this type of feedback is often an indication that your user is having a negative experience or is even unable to use your product, you should respond and resolve it quickly.

Ongoing

This is an important category of feedback that many companies don’t handle particularly well. In addition to the categories above, you can collect ongoing feedback by making it easy for your users to provide constructive input on the product experience at any time. By providing feedback channels right inside your product experience, you show your users that you really value their input. For example, provide an easy way for users to make feature requests while using your app.

How to Collect User Feedback

There are many different ways to collect proactive, reactive and ongoing feedback. Below are some examples of different types of each.

Run in-app surveys

We’ve found that one of the best and most natural ways to collect feedback is during your users’ regular use of your product; that is, right in your app. What better time to learn what your users really think than when the thing that you’re asking them about is top of mind? In-app surveys have much higher response rates and provide more insightful learnings than other types of surveys. Here are a couple of examples of surveys that work particularly well in-app:

Customer Effort Score

Customer Effort Score measures the effort required to achieve an intended outcome with your product or service. For example, when a user completes onboarding, you might ask the simple question “How difficult was it for you to complete onboarding?” There’s no better time to ask this question than right after the user has completed onboarding and no better place to ask them than right in your app!

Customer Happiness Index

Customer Happiness Index measures 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. Because you’re looking for specific feedback about an aspect of your product that your user has just engaged with, an in app survey will yield much higher engagement and far more meaningful insights than any other type.

Conduct customer interviews

Most product teams leverage user interviews as part of their user feedback strategy. Interviews are a free form format, not focused on interacting with a specific deliverable. User interviews are a great opportunity for product managers to speak directly to the users of the product that they’re building. Some advantages are that interviews allow for in-depth conversations that can range from the broad value of the product to specific feedback on individual product features. Because the conversation is happening in real time, the interviewer can ask the user to clarify responses to questions or go into greater detail on particular areas of interest.

Use NPS surveys

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys ask a simple question: “How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend or colleague?”. The survey respondent must answer this question based on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the least likely and 10 as the most likely. Generally, companies follow this question with an open-ended question asking the user to elaborate on their response. While NPS surveys can be a useful overall indicator of satisfaction, we think NPS surveys are overused, since they don’t provide actionable insight on what is working well and what isn’t. So make sure you understand the limitations of NPS.

Collect other in-app feedback

In addition to some of the focused in-app feedback mechanisms that we mentioned above, give your users the opportunity to share free-form feedback, right in your app, at any time. Common types of free-form feedback include support requests, bug reports and feature requests. By asking your users what type of feedback they have, you can route the feedback to the right place, which is more efficient for your internal teams and provides a much better customer experience.

Offer live chat

Sometimes your customers or users need a real-time interaction with a human, so live chat is a great solution. But importantly, other times they don’t want or need that real-time interaction. So ask your users whether they want that live chat experience or if they just wanted to submit their feedback.

Usability tests

Usability testing is a great way to gather feedback and insights during the product development process. Just before a new feature is released, you can offer a small beta group the chance to interact with the feature to see how easy it is for them to use. If a large number of users encounter problems, your team can ask questions and determine appropriate updates before launching it to the whole user population.

Important User Feedback Metrics

With all the customer feedback coming in via calls, email, online, in-product, etc. it’s important to know what it all means and how to turn it into actionable data. Are you receiving more positive or negative feedback? Do people find your product easy to use? Would they refer you to a friend? All of these questions are essential to understanding how your company is doing. Let’s jump in to some metrics that you can use to find the answer to key business questions.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT give you insight into how happy, or unhappy, a customer is with your overall service. This is usually for a certain feature within your product, such as having a support ticket resolved or returning a product. Send your customer a short survey immediately after their interaction with you or their interaction with a certain area of your product. This will ask them to rank how satisfied they were on a scale of 1 – 10. It’s easily adaptable, so you may wish to ask your questions differently, depending on the nature of the customer’s experience.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES tells you how much effort your customers need to put in to complete a task. This could be anything from getting a support request handled to finding the product or service they were looking for. It’s a transactional metric to measure how simply your customers are able to find something.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is used to indicate how many of your customers are likely to recommend you to a friend or colleague. Usually this will be on a scale from 1 – 10. Respondents can be split into three categories: detractors, neutrals, and promoters. Those that answer 1 – 6 are detractors, 7 – 8 are neutrals and 9 – 10 are promoters. NPS responses can also be used to track how loyal your customers are likely to be.

Customer Retention rate

This is a measurement of how many customers stay with your business over a given period of time, or keep paying for your services. Retention can show you when customers are likely to stop using or paying for your services. This could be after a week, a month or a quarter. You can also see how retention affects different cohorts of your audience.

Qualitative feedback

The above metrics are quantitative, meaning they’re based around calculating and tabulating a high volume of numeric inputs. Qualitative feedback on the other hand is based around individuals and aims to provide a more holistic view of customer thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Why did they like the experience? Did they get confused around a set of functionality? To collect qualitative customer feedback you can run free-response surveys or open-ended questions. Some of the best and most contextual feedback though comes from interviews, focus groups, usability testing, sales calls, as well as the day-to-day customer interactions from support and success teams.

(For a break down of the 10 best customer experience metrics and how to calculate them, check out our blog here.)

Best Practices for Collecting User Feedback

Now that we’ve touched on how to collect user feedback and some helpful metrics to use to measure the business impact, let’s talk best practices. These are a few tried-and-true methods for improving the quality of feedback you receive.

Ask for in-moment feedback

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.

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. By engaging with users or customers at the time that they’re having an experience in your product, it feels more natural to provide feedback.

Segment users into meaningful cohorts

Getting any feedback is good, but getting the right feedback from the right users is even better. We recommend segmenting users based on type and usage pattern. Type can refer to degree of engagement, lifecycle stage, or even subscription tier; think customer advisory board or power users. Usage pattern on the other hand, tends to be focused on interactions with a specific functionality set, so these are often more ad hoc groups. Creating cohorts allows you to target users who are going to give you the most meaningful feedback and give you the opportunity to build a closer culture of collaboration.

Create user feedback loops

Speaking of collaboration, creating user feedback loops is one of the best ways to directly integrate feedback into the product roadmap. All this means is that feedback from users leads to a request for change from the product team. Once changes have been made, make sure to close the loop by telling those end users you’ve taken their requests into account and have made updates. This sense of collaboration leads to more motivated and proactive feedback from users and allows you to better validate your roadmap items.

Select feedback channels carefully

Nowadays there’s more channels than ever to communicate with your users: emails, calls, social media, interviews, and in-product announcements. The type of feedback you receive will differ depending on the method you use. Interviews for examples are a bit time-consuming, but a great way to collect a lot of qualitative feedback. If you’re trying to understand why a specific set of functionality isn’t getting the expected amount of usage, or customers are expressing confusion, it may make sense to set up some user interviews.

Another popular channel is in-product, where users who are already engaging with your product can give live feedback. This type of feedback can either be triggered by the user or triggered based on user behavior. Some companies offer the same type of feedback form in-product as over email, but be advised email is generally less effective because people may forget important details. In-product gives you the ability to receive context based insights from users while they’re still looking at your product. User feedback tools like Parlor make it easy to collect in-product feedback and aggregate the data into actionable insights.

Ask for feedback at every stage

Time is of the essence! As people finish are handed off from sales to regular usage, collect feedback on the onboarding process. Can anything be improved? When you’re looking to release new functionality, make sure you’re collecting feedback before and after. Share a prototype with your target audience and a research council to see if there’s room for improvement prior to the release. Then after release, send a survey and ask for feedback to determine the success of the launch. As customers get close to their renewal, consider running a customer satisfaction survey to check risk for churn. There’s a number of touch points users go through with your product, so it’s important to always be ensuring those experiences are positive.

Plan your questions

When you’re out and about asking all your users to give feedback, you need to consider the type of questions you’re asking and how frequency you’re asking. The last thing users want when trying to navigate a product is 15 notifications for feedback in the span of 5 minutes. Make sure that questions are contextual, appropriately timed to user behavior, and avoid leading questions that might bias a respondent.

Evaluate with qualitative and quantitative data

All quantitative or all qualitative isn’t going to be able to provide you with the appropriate information to take action. Collect a high volume of quantitative data to know which portions of the product are doing well and follow up to collect qualitative to help define the specific changes needed to increase customer engagement and loyalty.

How to Manage User Feedback

Effectively managing user feedback is a bigger topic than we can cover in this post. But one thing we’ve learned from talking to hundreds of companies about their user feedback: without a good system in place, your user feedback will overwhelm you. Conversely, done right, effective management of user feedback will keep your customers happy and engaged and give you powerful insights to continuously improve your product. Here are a few elements of a good feedback management system.

Route user feedback to the right team

There are lots of different types of user feedback. For example, support requests, bug reports, and features requests. While each of these types of feedback is typically handled by your support, engineering and product teams respectively, in many companies all of this feedback is handled by a frontline support team. So instead, ask you user what type of feedback they’re submitting and then route it to the team that can best handle it. This approach is more efficient with your team’s time and provides a much better user experience.

Consolidate cross-channel feedback into a single record

User feedback comes from lots of different places. Your sales team may hear feature requests or competitor comparisons and store that information in your CRM. Your customer success team may receive feedback on calls, through emails and in your live chat tool. All of that feedback may land in a ticketing system. And your product team may be collecting feedback through user interviews and storing it in a project management system.

But with all this feedback sitting in all these different systems, it’s impossible to get a consolidated understanding of what your users, customers and potential customers value most. So collect your feedback into a single system of record. You can then organize your feedback into categories, which will allow you to do things like measure how pervasive a particular feedback theme is or understand how much existing customer or prospective customer revenue is associated with it. This process is essential to knowing which feedback you should prioritize for your product team to build.

Close the feedback loop with your users

When your users take the time to provide important feedback about their experience with your product, there’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a simple “thanks for your feedback” and nothing else. This makes the user feel like their feedback just landed in a black hole and will likely be ignored. Instead, keep your users in the loop during the full feedback lifecycle.

Start by thanking them for providing feedback, but then, continue to provide updates as their feedback is being considered by your team, prioritized for development and then actively being worked on. And finally, and most importantly, celebrate the release of the new functionality by announcing your feature release and thanking the users who contributed feedback.

Use Parlor to Collect and Manage User Feedback

Effectively managing user feedback is one of the most powerful ways to grow a loyal user base and rapidly improve your product. However, it may seem like an overwhelming challenge to implement an effective feedback management system. Well, that’s why we built Parlor! We’d be thrilled to help you turn user feedback chaos into your feedback advantage. Even if you’re not ready to invest in a feedback management system, we’re always happy to talk through your process and share some effective strategies. We’d love to hear from you!