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Picking the right customer feedback channel can sometimes feel like being a blind man meeting an elephant for the first time. Each channel can provide a particular view of how, where, and why your customers are using your product, their likes and dislikes, and any issues they may be running into. Combine these different views to form a complete picture of the current state of your product, and to gather insights into where it should be going in future versions.

This series has explored seven common customer feedback channels in depth:

  1. Social Media
  2. Surveys
  3. Colleagues / Internal Customers 
  4. Customer Interviews & Focus Groups
  5. In-App Feedback
  6. Usability Testing
  7. Customer Advisory Boards

Each post covers the nuances of each method, including: an overview of the feedback mechanism, the type of feedback you will get using this method, pros and cons of the approach, when to use it within the the Product Development Lifecycle and some best practices for getting the most out of this type of feedback.

Seven Common Customer Feedback Channels

1. Social Media

social media is a great way to get feedback

Social media sites and services are ubiquitous and a superb way to understand what your customers are saying about your product and have direct conversations with them. While relatively easy to tap into social media, it can be cumbersome to draw insights from the vast trove of feedback. Make sure to monitor what is being said about your product and company, to have reciprocal conversations with your customers, and to either tap into existing communities or create new ones which you can rely on to give you honest feedback throughout the product development lifecycle.

2. Surveys

surveys are classic customer feedback
Surveys are a low-cost, scalable way to capture customer feedback. When designing a survey, think about its purpose and the target audience and make sure each question is there for a reason. Design surveys with the end in mind, understand how you want to use the data, and make sure it is structured in such a way that it is easy to analyze. Surveys help you turn anecdotes into facts, and can be used to formulate, support or disprove a hypothesis. Most importantly, choose when (and how often) to survey your customers to increase the likelihood they’ll respond.

3. Colleagues / Internal Customers

feedback from colleagues or internal customers

Feedback from stakeholders or what some call “internal customers” within your organization can be extraordinarily valuable. To make the most of it, 1) let the organization know what constitutes appropriate feedback;  2) inform them how to submit it, and how it will be used; 3) use the feedback how you said you would, and show the organization the results. Solicit feedback from across your organization, from the Executive Leadership Team and Sales, to the Support and Services organizations. Balance the internal perspective with the feedback you receive from other channels.

4. Customer Interviews & Focus Groups

customer interviews and focus groups are important for feedback

Customer Interviews and focus groups are the best way to get detailed information about how and why customers are using your products. Speak with your customers, understand their motivations. Through strategic use of interviews, you can validate your hypothesis about future product direction, and get confirmation about your upcoming product improvements. Make no mistake, conducting and analyzing customers interviews can be difficult and time consuming. Done well, however, they will give you the confidence that the product you are releasing will be a winner.

5. In-App Feedback

in-app customer feedback

Capture feedback from people who are already using your apps and products and people who are already visiting your website. By embedding feedback tools directly into the product, you allow people to provide feedback in context, as they are using the application or performing an action. This is extremely valuable when assessing usability or looking to improve existing functionality, and also helps validate decisions. By allowing users to provide feedback when they are already using your product, you are ensuring that they can provide fresh, live, valuable, targeted feedback.

6. Usability Testing

usability testing is key
Usability tests provide feedback on how real customers use particular parts of your product to complete specific tasks. By watching them perform the tasks, you can learn whether your product is well suited to the task, and how it might be improved. Usability tests cannot tell you if your business model or price point are correct, but they can validate if you’ve designed your product to be easily useable, and will help you understand why users are (or are not) continuing to use it and how you might be able to make it better.

7. Customer Advisory Boards

a customer advisory board is worth considering
A Customer Advisory Board is a strategic source of feedback from people who have already purchased your products and made a commitment to your organization. Turn to your CAB to understand market and competitive forces and get early feedback on whether your product roadmap is in tune with their needs. As with most types of feedback, make sure participants are getting something from the experience as well: CAB members will expect to learn more about your future plans and will also want to learn from, and network with, other CAB participants.

A well-managed CAB can become a group of trusted advisors you can rely on to give you an accurate view of how to make your product even more successful.

TL;DR

What does a parable of elephants and blind men have to do with customer feedback channels? A stunning amount, it turns out. Different customer feedback channels will result in different types of feedback. Gather feedback from social media, surveys, colleagues, customer interviews & focus groups, in-app technologies, usability testing and customer advisory boards.  Taken together, they form a complex and complete picture of how your customers are using your products, where the products are performing well, and how they can be improved. Play to the strengths of each method, and you will learn loads about your product’s place in the marketplace and make more effective, informed decisions.

Steven Telio

About Steven Telio

Steven is a Product Management Consultant who specializes in defining and delivering stellar digital products. He has held senior level Product Management roles with a number of startups, including 4 which had successful exits. He has led projects in a variety of industries for organizations that include EMC, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Syngenta, Boeing, NASA, and Harvard Medical School, and began his career doing technical support for a medical device start-up, where he answered “patient-on-the-table” service calls from neurosurgeons.