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At the heart of every truly customer-centric product team is an excellent customer feedback collection strategy. Unless you’ve resigned to going the way of Myspace, you absolutely cannot make feedback an afterthought. Fortunately, getting useful customer feedback is not nearly as difficult as it sounds–here’s a few strategies the genius product teams at companies like Etsy, Facebook, and Pardot have used to capture actionable customer feedback:

 1. Talk to Your Customer Support Teamgetting feedback from customer support

(And any other customer-facing teams). If they talk to your customers, they’ll have feedback; don’t ignore it, embrace it. Develop a process by which you can retrieve feedback from other teams. Pardot did this by creating The Product Management Awesomeness Counsel, a group of representatives across the organization who are liaisons between their teams and the product team. They meet twice a month.

Pardot Solutions Manager, Vincent Migliore says it’s an excellent source of early feedback for PMs, “We would use this meeting as we would discuss our priorities and rank them, we might have been getting a little bit closer to the release of some of these items, so we could see some early ideas of what the functionality would look like and product managers were getting really quick ideas back from everybody. How it was looking, how it was progressing, and they could make changes if needed.”

2. Conduct In-House Usability Studies

Wanna know what your customers think about your product? Watch them use it. That’s what Facebook did after the team behind its page information crowdsourcing interface discovered that while it was extremely successful according to usage metrics, users weren’t providing accurate information. “They were saying, “Oh yeah, you know–Taylor Swift’s new song, it’s amazing, it’s done by R. Kelly,”” said Facebook Product Manager, Dwight Crow during a talk at UserConf.

Metrics were in the right place, but user actions were not, so Facebook brought in a group of power users for a usability study. “This was maybe the most interesting UX research I’ve ever done…we had 20 people and they were some of the most eccentric individuals I’ve ever met–one girl came in with a catana, there was this other individual, we’d flown him out from Albuquerque Texas, and he actually had a 12″ doll replica of himself wearing a flower bonnet on his shoulder,” said Dwight.

Eccentricities aside, Facebook determined what made users tick and rebuilt accordingly, “We made an entirely different surface, started over from scratch, and made a surface just for these power editors where they could look at what other people have said about the music, restaurants, books, and places of Facebook and have complete power and control and a little community where they could obviously interact with each other and discuss what was correct.” The new UI got 5 times more accurate crowdsourced information.

3. Let Customers Test Drive PrototypesPrototype Testing

When you let customers test drive something shiny and new they’ll pay you back in feedback. The product team at Etsy learned this while creating an entire prototype community where users can try prototypes and make suggestions.

Etsy Product Manager Nickey Skarstad says this strategy has worked like a charm; customers are thrilled to see what the product team is cooking up, meanwhile Etsy is able to collect quantitative data about usage, and facilitate customer conversations, ”People can actually come back and they can share their feedback with us in the prototype; we have really real conversations with people, which is awesome,” Nickey says.

4. Collect Data & Find Trendsfinding trends in customer feedback

Every product manager needs to add data literacy to their skillset, because the future of product management is data-driven and it’s really hard to argue with a strong set of data. It’s also, arguably, one of the easiest types of customer feedback to collect if you use the right tools and know (at least kind of) what to look for.

In November, our CEO Richard White shared how we’re using data at UserVoice to make more informed product decisions and described how we’re turning qualitative feedback from support, sales, and customers into actionable quantitative feedback by merging it with customer satisfaction data, lifetime value data, data from lost sales over time, etc. This type of data makes prioritizing feature requests more science and less sorcery.

Usage metrics also serve as numerical customer feedback. Both Nickey from Etsy and Dwight from Facebook have mentioned their teams use this in combination with other streams of customer feedback. For example, when Etsy launches a new UI, users are able to revert back to the previous one as they wish–Nickey says her team watches this closely “When they’re turning things off–what are the next couple actions that they’re doing? It’s surprising how quickly you see patterns.” Those trends help pinpoint pain points, and pain points are opportunities.

So there ya have it: customer feedback tips from Etsy, Facebook, & Pardot’s product teams. What methods have your team used to capture customer feedback?

Editor’s note: a version of this article previously appeared on the GetApp Lab blog in March 2015.

Heather McCloskey

About Heather McCloskey

Heather J. McCloskey, Inbound & Content Marketing Manager at UserVoice, is a former broadcast news producer. When she's not writing pieces about product management and customer support here, she can be found putting pedal to the metal behind a sewing machine or painting watercolor comics.