A Complete Guide to Customer Feedback

by
Rob Ridgeway
Director of Product

Every product roadmap has unexpected twists and turns, but customer feedback forms the signposts that can guide you in the right direction. If you understand precisely what your customers are asking for, you can deliver it in a way that delights users and provides value for your company. 

Customer feedback offers you a guide for your product development, but you need a process to gather and act on it. With an organized approach to feedback collection, you can prioritize the most impactful changes and turn even negative feedback into actionable steps that take you closer to a consistently valuable and successful product.

How to Collect Customer Feedback

Your first step in improving your product is to gather customer feedback from sources across your organization. Customer feedback can come in passively, or you can actively collect it. Feedback can include positive reviews from satisfied customers, customer complaints, new feature requests, bug reports and fixes, and testimonials.  

Regardless of the source, it’s helpful to funnel customer suggestions through a single customer feedback tool that’s shared by team members across all departments. A centralized feedback hub creates a shared understanding of the customer experience of your product, and it makes managing and triaging requests easier. It also makes product feedback analysis simpler since you can examine feedback in real time within the same tool.

Gather from Your Passive Feedback Channels 

Passive user feedback is unsolicited. It comes from customers reaching out to your company on their own without you asking for their opinions.

Passive feedback funnels into your company from several channels:

  • Online reviews
  • Customer success conversations (via phone call, email, or chat)
  • Social media comments and direct messages
  • Feedback that your sales team has received from potential customers 
  • In-app feedback 
  • Marketing analytics showing the customer journey
  • Product analytics that shows usage trends

If you don’t have passive feedback channels established, consider adding a few. These are low-lift ways to open up the lines of communication with your customers. Try giving customers a way to leave reviews or star ratings, or start collecting and analyzing data on how your customers use your product.

Collect Active Feedback

Active customer feedback is directly solicited. Companies seek out and collect this type of feedback through a directed effort, generally as a way to get answers to specific questions or to gauge overall customer satisfaction. 

You have a few options for collecting active feedback:

  • Customer feedback surveys: Email surveys, customer satisfaction surveys (like NPS surveys), and specific surveys for one-off research projects help you gather answers to the questions that matter to you. The answers you collect can inform you about customer sentiment—your customers’ attitudes and overall feelings about your product. Customer sentiment can point you toward opportunities for improvement.  
  • One-on-one interviews: Customer interviews are a prime opportunity to ask your users deeper, open-ended questions. These conversations may or may not follow a set agenda, but they give you and your customer a chance to come to a complete understanding of each other’s perspective. A one-on-one talk is a good fit for a situation where you need more detail and context to understand a customer’s feedback.  
  • Focus groups: Focus groups also give you a chance to ask deep questions but usually in a more standardized format than an interview. Focus groups allow you to gather customer feedback in a group setting, where each participant can impact the other’s opinions and points of view. Focus groups are well-suited to situations where you want honest, unvarnished responses from customers (who may be less willing to give you negative feedback in a one-on-one setting).
  • Validation tests: Product validation is helpful for gauging your customers’ opinions on proposed product changes before you commit to making them. If you run short, scalable validation tests prior to adding new features or functionality to your product, you can get a good idea of how well those changes are likely to address the pain points of your customer base. 
  • Customer advisory board: A customer advisory board is a group of hand-picked, influential customers who you can turn to when you need customer insights on industry trends, strategic company goals, or upcoming product launches. Customer advisory boards are beneficial when you need to speak with industry experts about large-scale issues affecting your overall product vision or strategy.

In each of these methods, you have the chance to talk directly to your customers and ask the questions that you need answers to. You can target your approach around a specific circumstance that you need actionable feedback for, like gathering feedback on a new feature before developing it. Active feedback collection is also a beneficial part of your overall customer feedback strategy. By building in regular touchpoints, you create an open line of communication with your customers where they can share their negative experiences or positive feedback as needed.

How to Address Customer Feedback

The value of customer feedback comes from gaining a deeper understanding of your customers’ pain points and a jumping-off point on how to address them. Each piece of feedback tells you what to consider fixing, adding, removing, or updating on your product in order to meet customer needs.

However, you’re probably not working with the unlimited time and resources you would need to take action on every piece of feedback you receive. You can’t do it all—nor should you. When you decide to address a specific customer request, you’ll end up taking on a new project, getting your product engineering team involved in development, and potentially tapping the product marketing team to come up with a promotion plan or new messaging about your product changes. Weigh your options before making a decision to change your product based on customer opinion. 

At UserVoice, we follow the ICE Scoring Model to prioritize customer feedback. We look at: 

  • The impact each request is likely to have
  • The confidence we have in our ability to address that request
  • The ease of doing so (or the effort required of our team)  

Look for the Most Impactful Suggestions

With limited time and resources available, you won’t be able to address every piece of customer feedback. However, you can focus your efforts on those requests that will have the highest impact on your customer satisfaction and/or strategic business goals.

There are a few ways to figure out which requests are likely to have the most impact:

  • Look at the popularity and frequency of feedback: If several customers had a similar bad experience or if you regularly receive the same feature requests, that may be impactful feedback. Some customer feedback tools feature a voting or rating system to make it easier to tell how popular a request is among your base. Organizing feedback based on the content of each request can also help you spot high-frequency asks from customers.
  • Determine the possible impact on your revenue: If high-value customers agree on a request or complaint, that shows that your revenue could be impacted significantly if you decide to act on it. (UserVoice Discovery integrates with Salesforce data to make a clear connection between feedback and account-based revenue.)
  • Match requests back to your product’s core purpose: Take customer complaints that your product falls short in a core area very seriously. For example, if you receive a comment that your meeting scheduling software doesn’t integrate well with a popular calendar tool, that’s likely to have a large impact on your product’s success.

Determine If the Feedback Fits in Your Product Strategy

As much as you may want to deliver exactly what your customers have asked for, some product changes won’t fit with your overall strategy and vision

Ask yourself if addressing that feedback would align with your strategy and, if so, to what degree. Your answers to those questions can feel a little subjective. However, tackling changes that are misaligned with your strategy can disrupt your long-term product plans while throwing off your other departments’ work as they shift to meet your new changes. One-off updates that don’t align with your product roadmap often aren’t scalable or particularly valuable for your company. 

There are times when addressing a specific piece of feedback may be beneficial for turning dissatisfied users into happy customers—and that is a powerful motivator for any customer-focused product manager. However, in these scenarios, avoid giving people exactly what they ask for without evaluating and researching it first. 

For example, if you’ve received feedback that your product price doesn’t fit customers’ expectations, carefully consider your guiding strategy before changing your pricing model. If changing your pricing fits with your product and may help you attract new customers, it might be a good idea to tackle it—but it isn’t something to take lightly.

Come Up with Possible Solutions 

The final piece of the puzzle (and a core part of product management) is coming up with feasible solutions that address customer needs, align with your strategy, and are likely to add value to your product.

Come up with ideas on how to address your customers’ feedback. Then determine your confidence levels for each possible solution. How likely is your idea to solve the problem, and how likely is it to create value for your company and customers? That concept of confidence can be subjective. However, if you’ve collected data as part of your process, you can also determine an objective confidence level in your results.

As a best practice, this step in the process should involve research. You can conduct check-ins with customers to validate your proposed solutions. If the problem you’re addressing is impactful enough on your product, you may want to create a prototype and show it to a handful of customers to gauge their reactions.

Finally, collaborate with product engineering to determine how feasible your proposed solution is. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time available to devote to a product update, but that doesn’t mean your solution is off the table entirely. Once your engineering team has the bandwidth in their development cycle, they may be able to work on your project.

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What to Do with Negative Customer Feedback

Negative feedback can be difficult to deal with, especially if you’re a new product manager. However, negative feedback from customers still offers valuable product insights. To discern what those are and formulate a plan of action, you’ll need to understand the impact, check your strategy, and come up with feasible solutions. 

Keep in mind that any negative comments you receive from unhappy customers deal with their experiences with your product and aren’t personal. Try not to dwell on a customer’s bad experience or let a negative review response get in the way of your progress.

Determine the Problem

Before you can address negative feedback, you have to truly understand the underlying problem that’s causing the customer’s issue—and that problem isn’t always straightforward.

For example, imagine you spot a spike in negative customer reviews or a dip in your online reputation after a jump in new subscriptions. The reason why new subscribers have churned could be explained by a specific bad review: perhaps your product experienced a widespread bug that new customers weren’t happy with. Negative online reviews could pinpoint other problems, like: 

  • A confusing, unintuitive UI
  • Poor customer support
  • Customers who aren’t achieving their desired outcomes with your product
  • A misaligned outreach campaign that’s targeting or attracting the wrong segment

The validation process can help you understand the root cause of a customer’s issue—and you’ll need to know the cause before you can address the problem. Try:

  • Referencing the comments and reviews you already have to find a shared theme
  • Asking customers directly for more clarification
  • Surveying customers with specific questions, getting at the heart of the problem   

Your goal is to understand the “why” that’s driving your customer's problem, so you can take steps to address it in the most effective way possible. 

Address Negative Feedback After a Failed Launch

Any time a product or feature launch falls short, it can generate negative customer feedback. That feedback often comes with very real impacts on your company’s revenue and growth goals, which can make the situation even tougher for a product team to deal with.

The best way to avoid the shock of a failed launch is to develop a contingency plan well in advance. Determine the success metrics that you can use to spot wins or losses early, like:

Thoroughly test your planned feature or product before launching it. As part of this process, get feedback from your customers on that early iteration, then make smart changes based on what your customers told you. That prep work gives you a path to do something about a failed launch if it does happen instead of scrambling for a path forward after being caught by surprise.

How to Follow Up on Customer Feedback

The final step of a comprehensive customer feedback process is to close the customer feedback loop by following up with the people who shared their opinions with you. Following up lets the customer know that you value their time, understand their feedback, and will take responsibility for any issues. Follow-ups also show that you have high standards for your product and that you want your customers to feel satisfied with their experience. That focus on quality is beneficial to your overall brand reputation and could convince an unhappy customer to give you a second chance.

People want to feel heard. It’s great news any time you can tell a customer that their feedback led to a product update. It’s also good for customers to hear from you, even if you have to tell them that you can’t address their issue right now. Acting on customer feedback can help with customer loyalty and retention—and communicating directly with the people who left you feedback may turn disgruntled users into loyal customers. 

When you’re responding to feedback:

  • Reach out to the customer in a timely manner: A quick follow-up on feedback lets the customer know that their opinion is important to you. It also shows them that you value customer opinions and want to deliver a product that meets their needs. 
  • Thank them for taking the time to offer feedback: Customer feedback is valuable information. Offer customers a genuine “thank you” for providing you with information that can improve your product.
  • Give them a general idea of your next steps: Avoid offering specific deadlines, but tell them if you’re considering their suggestion. If you know it isn’t feasible, share that as well; people understand that you can’t do everything you would like.
  • Provide customers with status updates on their feedback: Let your customers know that your team is making progress on their feedback requests. You can manually reach out to customers to let them know about an update, or you can use an automated system that alerts customers to changes and new feature launches related to their feedback. 
  • Consider scheduling a one-on-one: If, after you’ve told a customer “no” and they’re still not satisfied, offer to set up a phone call to discuss the issue. Give them your honest perspective and be transparent with the reason behind the “no.” Honesty goes a long way toward repairing a damaged customer relationship. 
  • Check in with them later: Keep the lines of communication open with your customer and offer to touch base with them in a month or two. This is a good chance to check if their problem has changed or to inform them of new product updates you were able to find time for.   

During follow-ups, ask customers specific questions about their feedback with the goal of understanding their thoughts as much as possible. At UserVoice, we developed Outreaches to scale this process down and make it simpler to check in with customers whenever you need to. When creating your own follow-up process, look for ways to make your work easy and repeatable, so you can keep a direct line to your customers at all times. 

Create a Complete Customer Feedback Process with UserVoice Discovery 

UserVoice Discovery lets you collect, organize, share, and follow up on customer feedback for your product. We help you manage the customer feedback process from start to finish, so requests and problems get the attention they deserve. 

Our integrations help you get a complete picture of how your customers use and feel about your product. With customer feedback, product analytics, and sales data synced, you get a clear view of the feedback you receive and the impact each suggestion may have on your product. To streamline your approach to customer feedback management, sign up for a free trial of UserVoice Discovery.