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In case you’ve missed it, we at UserVoice blog are currently *obsessed* with best practices for customer feedback – how to do it right, how to do it wrong, how to onboard your co-workers, etc., etc. In keeping with this theme, we decided to talk to experts and get their perspectives on how to optimize customer feedback. This post is the second of a handful of influencer interviews we’ll be sharing in the coming weeks.

Jeff Lash product manager

Jeff Lash is the Service Director for the Product Management advisory service for Sirius Decisions. He is also the author of a well-rounded blog I and other product-happy folks read called “How to Be a Good Product Manager.” With that kind of title, you better believe he knows something about product management!

I reached out to Lash for some of his thoughts on how to best capture customer feedback. Here were my top three takeaways:

1. Be Proactive about Diversifying Your Customer Feedback Approach

diversifying your customer feedback and voc approach

Lash suggests that it’s important to reach people in a variety of different ways: “Some customers and users will be proactive about providing feedback — sending emails, communicating through sales or account management, or submitting suggestions through idea management portals, for example — but usually this is just the tip of the iceberg. Product managers need to remember that there are a lot people who will never actually provide feedback in this way, so they need to be proactive about identifying opportunities to understand customer needs, which usually includes techniques like one-on-one interviews and observational research.”

2. Don’t Let Daily Fire-Fighting Distract You From Customer Feedback

don't let distractions and putting out fires kill your customer feedback

“At SiriusDecisions we ran a survey of product management leaders, and one of the questions we asked was about what skills the product managers on their teams most need to improve, and the top result was that ‘collecting product feedback and measuring product satisfaction.’

Some of this is because product managers are being pulled in so many different directions, which I have sympathy for, but at the same time, this is such a crucial part of making your product a success that you can’t let the daily fire-fighting or other internal responsibilities pull you away from understanding customer needs and collecting feedback.

Sure, it might be quick and easy to just put together a survey, for example, but if that’s the only research you’re doing, the feedback you get may be biased and is likely only scratching the surface of what your customers are thinking. My colleague Rachel Young and I will be covering this in a presentation at the annual SiriusDecisions Summit in May — looking at the different ways that product managers and marketers can and should be understanding customer needs and collecting feedback.

3. Your “Voice of Customer” Program Must Go Beyond Features

you can't hear the voice of the customer without hearing the voice of the customer!
“You can’t understand the voice of the customer without actually hearing the voice of the customer,” says Lash, suggesting that tech can’t and shouldn’t replace real conversation:

“Technology has allowed us to collect feedback from customers in a number of different ways, and do it more quickly and inexpensively than ever before, but that’s no substitute for actually talking or spending time with customers.

It’s also important to understand that “voice of customer” means many different things to different people. You may have someone in marketing or a customer experience function also looking at voice of customer, and often that’s looking at it from a much broader perspective which is important. Sometimes product managers look at things too narrowly — when they say “voice of customer” they really are mean “understand what new features we should add to the product,” but really the voice of the customer is going to including using the product but also things like onboarding, support, services, account management, and even billing and logistics.”

Sara Aboulafia

About Sara Aboulafia

Sara Aboulafia is a Content Marketing Specialist at UserVoice with a background in freelance writing, content marketing, and journalism. Outside of work, Sara writes and performs music, binge-watches comedy, and spends an unhealthy amount of time futzing with technology before happily retreating to the woods.