How to Collect Customer Feedback In-App

It’s embedded in many apps and products. Look around this screen. Is it there on the right? Down there in the lower left corner? Maybe it’ll appear after you scroll down a bit or give the screen a little shake?  (Good to shake: mobile, milk, Alabama. Bad to shake: laptop and desktop computers. )

best-practices-website-app-feedback-350x350It’s very likely that if you hang out here or on another web property for a little while, you’ll eventually be prompted to provide some feedback or sign up for something. Rate the app. Complete a one-question survey. Chat with…whoever that operator is that is standing by.

Done well, in-app feedback is a fantastic way to gather impactful, relevant information from people as they use your product. Done poorly, it’s a lethally effective way to drive people away or irritate them so much that they want to exact their revenge. (And then there will be the predictable revenge backlash.)

How can you strike a balance between gathering real-time feedback and respecting your users’ rights to get stuff done without being interrupted? Pauline Phillips had it right when she wrote, “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are’ and those who say, ‘Here I am’.” The same applies to instituting in-app feedback.

Collecting Customer Feedback Using In-App Tools

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In This Article:

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What is In-App Feedback and Why Use It to Gather Customer Feedback?

“Your website or app is probably the most obvious place to collect feedback, yet it’s an easy one to overlook or over-complicate. A bare bones approach is as simple as strategically placing contact forms and/or surveys throughout your site or app…just be sure not to annoy your site visitors and app users with constant or aggressive requests to complete surveys and answer questions.” [Source]example of uservoice customer feedback widget

Some common tools used to collect feedback from directly within your app, product or website are:

  • Contact Us forms
  • Chat widgets
  • In-app surveys
  • In-app feedback forms
  • Shake-to-send feedback
  • Ubiquitous links to Twitter and Facebook

Be kind. Do not annoy your site visitors and app users with aggressive requests to complete surveys.

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What kind of feedback will it get you?

Feedback from people who are already using your products, who have chosen to visit your website, who have otherwise opted-in to what you are selling…feedback from these people is worth its weight in pixels. Gold pixels. And providing them a way to share feedback with you from within the context of your product makes this type of feedback especially valuable. It may be used to improve the usability of a particular feature or to recruit users who are already performing certain actions for deeper discussions. The main value is the immediacy of the feedback given the user’s context within your product. The feedback will tend to be more concrete, and users may be more likely to provide candid, quick responses.

The Facts

Collecting the Feedback: Easy.
Once implemented within your product, the feedback comes to you. You do not need to pursue it.
Analyzing the Feedback: Moderate.
It depends on the method you have used to solicit the feedback, and the care you’ve put into crafting your survey or feedback form.
Reach: Niche / It Depends.
You are limited to the people who are opting to use your app or product.
Scalability: Easy.
The technology, once implemented, can be easily reused across all of your properties.
Cost: Moderate.
Much of the cost is associated with initial setup. Once in place, each additional survey or widget will cost relatively little.

Pros… with Benefitspros of using in app feedback

  • Context-Sensitive Feedback. Users will already be using your product, so they can provide feedback based on their actual usage or needs at the time. Priceless.
  • Always on. By implementing feedback mechanisms within the product itself, you’ve made it very easy for users to provide input, at any point, without sending a formal survey or otherwise cluttering an inbox in hopes of getting a hit.
  • Tapping into the Mobile App Review Ecosystem: Encourage users to rate your app and otherwise provide feedback when they are in the process of using it. “However annoying it may be, there are a few advantages to this feedback approach. For one it’s simple [to implement]; all you need to do is link to a URL. On top of this, there is some anecdotal evidence that these prompts do increase the number of app store reviews — which can be vital to the success of an app.” Just make sure you give users an out and allow them to permanently disable Rate My App reminders. (See the anecdotes at the top of this post if you need a refresher.)
  • High response rates. Since the feedback mechanism is built into your services, users are able to access it if and when they need it. That could mean reporting a problem, bug, enhancement or glitch or complementing the team on their choice of iconography.

Cons… with Weaknessesbest practices for collecting website and app feedback

  • Too. Much. Feedback. There are a lot of channels which users can tap into to provide feedback. Sometimes, there are just too many to stay on top of them all. (Do yourself a favor: Set up technology which helps you consolidate it.)
  • Not enough detail. If you are posting micro-surveys within your site, the information you get back from respondents may not be sufficiently detailed to allow it to be actionable.
  • Always on. By implementing feedback mechanisms within the product itself, you’ve made it very easy for users to provide input, at any point, without sending a formal survey or otherwise cluttering an inbox in hopes of getting a hit. But, sometimes that feedback may be irrelevant given new decisions.
  • Limited future follow-up. Depending on the tools being used, you may not have enough contact information to follow-up directly with the person who submitted the feedback and delve deeper into their responses.
  • You must have an app, product or website in order to use this feedback mechanism. If your project is in its very early stages, in-app feedback may not be an option for you.

Using In-App Feedback Throughout the Product Development Lifecycleusing in app feedback throughout the product development lifecycle

At what point(s) in the PDLC will this type of feedback be most useful?
Product Development Lifecycle:

  • Phase 1: Conceive – imagine, specify, plan, innovate
  • Phase 2: Design – describe, define, develop, test, analyze, validate
  • Phase 3: Realize – manufacture, make, build, procure, produce, sell, deliver
  • Phase 4: Service – Use, operate, maintain, support, sustain, phase-out, retire, recycle, and dispose

Tapping into In-App feedback is helpful throughout the Product Development Lifecycle.

  • In-app feedback is an excellent way to validate existing or proposed functionality, and to solicit ideas for improvements to the status quo.
  • Once the product is in production, use in-app tools to support users, allowing them to report issues, frustrations, improvements, and enhancements.

in-app feedback surveyBest Practices and Pro-tips

Make Contact Forms and Surveys Discoverable

Place common feedback tools, such as contact forms and basic surveys, within the app in easily discoverable locations. Think consistency: place them in page headers or footers, along page gutters, as top level menu item, or as a sub-menu within your About section.

Keep It Short

“KissMetrics UX researcher Chuck Liu recommends keeping those embedded surveys as short as possible – try asking just a single question, if they answer the question give them the opportunity to provide more feedback or answer more questions if they so desire.”

Mobile: Rate My App!

TJ VanToll writes, “The most common — and perhaps most annoying — means of gathering feedback is to leverage the platform’s app store rating mechanism.”

Alternatively, instead of aggressively requesting a rating, you could include it as an option within the main menu. While it’s advantageous to have it somewhere within the app that is consistently accessible, there is the disadvantage that a user will need to navigate to this page and in the process will lose the context of what they were doing.

“This approach works, but there is one problem with such an approach: you lose context. Because the user has to navigate to the feedback form, you can no longer take a screenshot of what they’re seeing on their device — and this is often invaluable for debugging issues.”

Context matters when requesting feedback on your product. In-app feedback tools allow users to remain in-context.

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collecting mobile app feedbackMobile: Shake It [Like a Polaroid Picture]

In an effort to be less obtrusive, many apps use a more subtle mechanism — shake your phone to reveal a hidden menu of feedback options. It’s an effective, out-of-the way option for embedding feedback options into your app. The one downside is discoverability. Maybe a user will become frustrated enough to shake their device (not as dirty as it sounds), but otherwise, they may not know that the functionality exists. A major advantage of this option is the that user does not lose context within the app, and also has the option (usually) of easily capturing and sending a screenshot.

Use In-App Feedback as a Feedback Feeder System

In-app surveys can help you identify users you want to get to know better, and have deeper conversations with. Think of it as speed-dating for customer interviews –  an inexpensive way to cast a wide net. Getting out the building is good, but only if you’re spending your time getting quality feedback. Screening users before you speak with them is a surefire way to increase your hit rate. Chuck Liu of KissMetrics has a detailed post in which is walks through his process of creating an in-app screener to identify the best users to speak with.

  • Step 1: Create a mini recruiting questionnaire (aka “screener”) to find the people you want. This includes defining the criteria you want to use to select your target users and actually writing the screener.
  • Step 2: Get your screener in front of the right people. This could be implemented as a modal or micro-survey within the app itself. As Mr. Liu goes on to explain, “The reason I like this method is because I know that, not only are these active users, but the micro-survey or modal is displayed only on the parts of the app that are relevant to what I want to validate. Users who fill out your screener this way are: 1) contextually aware of what you’re trying to ask, 2) more likely to answer your screener, and 3) a really good fit for getting qualitative data.”
  • Step 3: Follow-up with the people who responded to the screener. The in-app widgets may have helped you find the right people to connect with, now it is time for the heavy lifting of either performing customer interviews or following up with more detailed surveys to validate the behaviors and sentiments you’re interested in.

The TL;DR

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, and targeted feedback.

About the Author

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.

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