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In case you’ve missed it, UserVoice is currently *obsessed* with researching and sharing industry best practices for customer feedback — a subject area that’s continually evolving. In keeping with this theme, we decided to talk to product experts and get their perspectives on how to optimize customer feedback. This post is the fourth of a handful of influencer interviews we’ve shared over the last few weeks.


Cliff Gilley, product managerCliff Gilley, Technical Product Manager for software company K2, has worked as a PM for over ten years in a variety of markets. He is also the writer and editor of one of product management’s most beloved blogs, The Clever PM. As a frequent reader and fan, I reached out to Cliff for his clever (sorry) insights on how product managers can best handle customer feedback. These were his top tips:

1. Seek Customer Feedback in Unorthodox Places

“In my experience as a Product Manager across a wide variety of markets and customer segments, the biggest tip I would give regarding customer feedback is to seek it out in the most unlikely of places.  Most people focus on support tickets or forums that invite customers to report and maybe discuss issues that they’re having.  But there are hundreds of avenues through which your company makes contact with your customers — everything from marketing to sales to account management to your legal department. Everyone in those departments has a different type of contact with your customer and a different take on what they want, what they need, and what their problems are.  You simply can’t afford to discount any potential source of information if you want to get a clear picture of what your customers want, need, and are really searching for.  Work with everyone in your organization, so that you have the best, most well-rounded information about your market — and use those teams to enable you to have as much direct contact with your market as possible – sales presentations, account reviews, and conferences are all common and key touch points to learn more.”

2.Quantify Your Feedback and Dig Deeper

what is the context of your customer feedback?

“In my book, there are two “biggest mistakes” that Product Managers commonly make with regard to customer feedback: (1) failing to quantify the feedback, and (2) taking feedback on face value.

The first problem is usually one that results from a lack of surrounding data that can be captured along with the feedback — poor customer service systems, a lack of diligence (or interest) on the part of sales, marketing, or account managers, or even just a lack of understanding on the part of the Product Manager. It’s essential that when we collect and analyze customer feedback as Product Managers, we work to balance the qualitative information that’s being provided with the quantitative data that surrounds it — who provided the information, when they provided it, what’s the priority that the customer has around it, what’s the priority the business has around it, how long the customer’s been with the company, what the financial impact is of whatever feedback’s being provided…there’s a nearly endless list of possible quantitative data that could be collected. Figure out what’s important to your business and what data you need in order to decide what’s actionable or not.  Not only does it help you better understand the importance (or lack thereof), but having these quantitative data points better arms you to fight for what’s right.

The second problem is a much more insidious one — and one that people outside of Product Management suffer from all the time. The initial response to a lot of customer feedback is almost always emotional — some big customer complains about some small thing, and it immediately becomes the #1 priority for the entire company to focus on.  That’s not how we run a successful business, though — we need to take the feedback in and look at it.  Is it something that you’ve heard before?  Is it something that’s a recurring theme for the customer?  What other things is the customer saying — are they otherwise happy, but for this issue; or are they completely unhappy and this is just one more thing on their big list?  Who is the customer really — do they actually represent the bigger market, or is your work to “fix” their issues really just custom development work that others won’t find value in?  The classic adage is largely correct — customers don’t know what they need, they know what they want; and it’s the job of Product Management to figure out what they need from what they say they want.”

3. Voice of Customer Means Making Time to Plan & Analyze

“The best advice I can provide to someone who is looking to build a solid and persuasive Voice of the Customer program is two-fold: (1) on the quantitative side, decide ahead of time what information you want to collect surrounding the feedback and make sure that everyone involved understands why the quantitative information is needed; and (2) on the qualitative side, make sure that there’s an understanding that feedback is only the first step in a VoC program — that once the feedback comes in, and that further analysis is necessary before deciding what feedback is actionable and what isn’t, as well as how actionable feedback should be responded to.”

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.