For customer-minded organizations, closing the customer feedback loop is arguably just as important as collecting customer feedback in the first place. Not only can a closed-loop feedback process drive customer loyalty and turn average users into passionate evangelists, but also it can help continuously fuel your organization with customer insight.

Whether you ask for feedback or not, customers will find a way to share it. Acting on and responding to the customer feedback you receive delights users and differentiates your company from the competition. According to Gartner, 95 percent of companies actively collect customer feedback, but only 10 percent actually leverage it to improve their product, and only 5 percent bother telling their customers that they did.

Your organization can be part of that 5 percent. But to close the loop effectively, you’ll need to correct your misconceptions and embrace some core best practices.

What Closing the Customer Feedback Loop Is and Isn’t

Before diving in and exploring best practices for closing the loop on customer feedback, it’s important to look at what closing the loop isn’t. There are three common misconceptions about what counts as closing the loop:

  1. It’s not sending automated “thanks for your feedback” messages: Your users know these messages are automated and probably assume nothing will ever happen after they hit “submit” on their feedback. This isn’t a value-add for users and it doesn’t close the loop.
  2. It’s not break-fix, bug management, or support issues: Users already expect you to close the loop on bugs that they’re reported–whether you fix them or not.
  3. It’s not your latest newsletter blast: Newsletters are impersonal, making the effort to close the loop and communicate with individual users shows you care.

When we talk about closing the customer feedback loop, we’re not talking about the three tactics above. We’re talking about targeted and personalized follow-up communication to specific pieces of product feedback. Closing the loop means letting your user know how you’ve improved the product because of what they said. It means personal followup that makes an individual connection. Proper feedback followup stands out from the rest of the so-called “user engagement” people experience that’s generic, looks mass-produced, and feels anything but personal.

How to Manage the Customer Feedback Loop: 7 Best Practices

1. Focus on One Feedback Source to Start

Before you can close any feedback loops, you have to open them. That means creating a way to gather their feedback. Using a single feedback source is a great jumping off point, providing a focused target for your team’s energy.

In the future, your team can (and should!) add additional feedback sources into the mix. Additional channels for customer feedback can help you improve your Coverage Rate, or the percentage of customers providing feedback. (A healthy coverage rate, whether in terms of percentage of accounts or percentage of revenue those accounts represent, is 15 – 25%, with 25+% being excellent.) Additional sources will also bring you different types of context and increased fidelity of analysis.

But for now, one source is a good start.

2. Aggregate and Centralize Customer Feedback

Oftentimes product feedback is either aggregated or centralized – you need to do both.

Turning feedback into action is difficult when it’s buried in a folder or scattered across various inconsistent spreadsheets. So, make the feedback you collect useful and easily-accessible by organizing it in a single, centralized location. Chances are you’ll receive feedback that can be beneficial to every different team within your organization, don’t keep it from them!

As your feedback repository grows, it will get overwhelming and ineffective if you don’t find a way to organize it properly. You want to be able to quickly drill down to specific types of feedback, feedback sources, types of customers etc.

Because it can be months (or longer) between when a customer shares feedback and a product change or other action is taken as a result of the feedback, you’ll want to keep track of whether there have been any follow up communications associated with a piece of feedback. Also, you will want to somehow connect pieces of feedback to specific product or organizational initiatives.

When feedback is aggregated and organized by theme or category, it’s far easier to reference later to inform your product planning decisions.

3. Decide Where to Focus Your Attention—Be Ruthless

Prioritizing product feedback is a must because you’ll never get around to everything. Attempting to react to every request and message isn’t a productive use of your limited resources.

Instead, identify the top 10 percent of topics found within your feedback. These requests will probably represent as much as 40 to 70 percent of your total feedback volume (which makes sense since the most important topics will be raised by multiple customers).

The more often you’re hearing about a problem, the more pressing and common it likely is for your users.

4. Set Expectations with Customers

Customers should feel confident that their feedback is tracked and reviewed by the product team – make sure to mention this somehow when they leave the feedback. While saying “we’ll review your feedback” it isn’t necessarily “closing-the-loop.” it buys good will. After digesting and prioritizing these items, circle back and share where their feedback fits into the universe of priorities.

For some products, even more visibility into the feedback prioritization process can be provided. Using public customer feedback platforms, users can see the top feedback and your responses. If possible, give them a way to add their agreement or “+1” to your responses—it’s bonus feedback for you and displays a collaborative approach to creating the best possible solution.

And, when you finally do release the feature, fix, or update they requested, don’t miss your opportunity to tell them about it! It makes you look good (and responsive), otherwise they may not realize you addressed their feedback.

5. Remove Internal Bottlenecks

Break down silos. It’s not uncommon for a company’s customer success team to manage the vast majority of customer communication. That said, the entire organization should be empowered and encouraged to communicate with customers. Especially when it comes to asking follow up questions about a suggestion and closing the loop on feedback. That said, be sure to document customer communication to ensure your customers aren’t receiving duplicate or conflicting messages.

6. It’s Okay to Say No

Not every idea will be a good fit for your product. It’s okay to say so, particularly when there’s a good reason you can share with them.

Customers usually understand your product can’t be all things to all people. As long as you give serious consideration to customer feedback, address pain points, and endeavor to explain WHY you’re passing on a suggestion, most customers will understand.

Communicating why it’s not being prioritized at all or where it fits into your overall stack of requests provides an extra dash of transparency. But pick your spots, influential customers may challenge their request’s relative ranking and get you into an uncomfortable debate about why “someone else’s” priority topped theirs.

7. When You Close One Loop, Open Another One

Responding to a request or complaint is the start of a conversation. You’ve got an engaged customer who can now be an ongoing resource– if you initiate a new feedback loop.

You can start by asking if your response made a difference, thanking them for their time and insights, and following that up with an invitation to contribute more. This can be an open-ended ask or an inquiry about a specific topic.

Customer-Centric Companies Close the Loop

Today customers have high expectations about companies’ responsiveness. Listening to, AND following up with customers sets your business apart. By asking for and responding to customer feedback, you’re creating a superior customer experience where real users feel listened to and understand their impact on product development. (And where you have valuable insight into how to improve your product)