Why is customer feedback particularly important for B2B products? Unlike B2C products, usage metrics aren’t always tied to customer satisfaction or retention. While B2C consumers will simply stop using products they don’t like, unhappy B2B customers often continue using products they are unsatisfied with because they need them to do their job.
Users of B2B products suffering through terrible user experiences and cumbersome workflows will eventually reach a boiling point when it’s probably too late to win them back. That’s why, for B2B products in particular, proactively soliciting honest customer feedback is a must. In today’s article, we’ll address a few best practices specifically for B2B customer feedback programs.
Why Multi-Channel Customer Feedback Is Important to B2B Product Development
For B2B products user feedback needs to come from a wide range of individuals. A single account can have multiple users on multiple teams, each with different needs and experiences to consider. That’s why we suggest striving to get feedback from at least 25% of your total userbase for a representative canvas.
Getting meaningful feedback, and broad feedback coverage requires multiple feedback mechanisms. Relying solely on one or two channels can reduce your sample size, and limit the people you can get feedback from. At UserVoice, we receive 53% of feedback via self-service sources, with the rest coming from our customer teams. More interestingly, we see most customers utilize one of those mechanisms but not both (only 18% of people utilize both self-service sources and customer teams).
If we only offered self-service channels or relied solely on customer-facing staff, we’d miss out on half the pool of feedback, which would skew how our product performs and meets customer needs. Providing a diverse set of opportunities to share opinions gives us the best chance to capture a full picture of how users feel.
How to Ask for Feedback Across 6 Popular Channels
Utilizing every possible feedback mechanism may be too tall an order for some B2B companies, but the more avenues and opportunities for feedback available, the more input you’ll receive. Here are our top seven feedback channels, what makes them valuable, and some best practices on implementation.
Providing feedback opportunities during a user’s natural workflow is key to capturing input in the heat of the moment rather than counting on the user to share their opinion later on. This channel can uncover friction points that analytics may not expose while providing users with confidence that their feedback is both welcome and addressed.
- Make It Discoverable—It’s a fine line between offering a feedback mechanism and cluttering up limited screen real estate, but if users don’t see it, they’re not going to use it. Instead of hiding it in a menu give it prominent, on-screen visibility at critical junctures in task workflows. One of the best we’ve seen was StackOverflow simply placing red text in the upper right corner saying “We want your feedback on how to improve.”
- Offer A Clear Value Proposition—If you want feedback, make it clear you’re listening and want to use it to improve their experience. Since 95% of companies don’t respond to feedback, many assume it’s not wanted; make it clear the objective is making their lives better.
- Keep It Short & Sweet—When you’re essentially interrupting people to ask for their opinion, you don’t want to monopolize their time. Ask one or two relevant questions related to the part of the app they’re currently using then let them get back to work. Making one question open-ended gives them the opportunity to vent if they’re so inclined.
- Stay Outta the Way—The goal is not interrupting the user, but rather providing an opportunity to share if they want to (otherwise you’ll get a lot of feedback about all those annoying pop-ups asking me questions). Stick to the corners of the page and don’t obscure any essential navigational or functional elements. Another tactic to minimize annoyance is delaying any pop-ups or “toasters” for 10-30 seconds after page load.
- Pick Your Spots—When adopting a proactive approach, consider the overall user journey before presenting a feedback opportunity. Don’t bombard new users right out of the gate, unless soliciting feedback is baked into your onboarding process.
Feedback from Internal Teams
Customer-facing staff deal with customers during critical junctures, such as troubleshooting issues, training, onboarding, or trying to land that next deal. Since there’s already an active dialog, users are far more likely to share their thoughts with them, but turning these coworkers into feedback collecting machines requires efficient systems for preventing things from falling through the cracks.
Create a Proxy Feedback System
Coworkers working directly with clients will hear a lot of feedback from customers, so it should be simple to pass it along.
- Make it Quick, Easy & Convenient—Apply the same mentality to funneling insights back to the product team. They must be able to submit their learnings without exiting their own tools and workflow and require as few steps as possible to send it on and move along.
- Keep It Simple But Categorized and Auditable—Ensure the system is actually used by capturing the essential information required in just a few steps. For example, feedback should be categorized to identify the specific customer, but coworkers shouldn’t be burdened with lengthy forms and mandatory fields.
Provide Outlets for Employee Ideas, Too
People dealing with customers on a regular basis may have their own feedback based on those experiences, so give them a method to contribute their own opinions as well.
- Focus the Conversation—Tell customer-facing staff what’s most interesting to the product team. If there are backlog items under consideration or new offerings in the works, they should steer feedback solicitation to those areas when possible.
- Keep it Private—Encourage transparency and openness with an option to submit anonymously.
Surveys are a fantastic channel… the challenge is getting customers to actually complete them. Here are some ways to get a decent response rate and make the most of the opportunity.
- Provide Proper Motivation—Convincing customers to take a survey is easier when they know it will ultimately benefit them. Stating the intended goal, such as “Hey, we want your feedback. Tell us what to build next.” lets them know why you’re asking these questions and their influence on the product planning process.
- Leave One Open-Ended Question—Open-ended questions uncover unpredictable hidden gems, but can also be intimidating for respondents and time consuming to analyze. Stick primarily to multiple choice questions, but always including at least one chance to share whatever’s on their mind. We’re a fan of “How can we improve?”
- Always Offer “Other”—Multiple choice questions are quick, easy, and quantifiable, but it’s naive to assume you already know every possible answer. Give them an “other” option every time; you might be surprised with what you find.
- Capture Partial Responses—Some customers will bail out before finishing, so be sure to capture answers as they go to get some value even if they don’t finish. With this in mind, front-load your survey with the most important questions.
- Bucket Test Your Survey—Before spamming your entire customer base, test drive your survey with a smaller group. You might uncover flaws in the methodology or realize you want different follow-up questions based on that initial test run.
Social Media Feedback
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram– sometimes these are feedback channels you DON’T want people to use. Often unstructured, social media complaints are seen by other customers, prospects, competitors, the media, and investors.
- Point Them in the Right Direction—B2B users often turn to social media because they’re not sure where else to go. Reply with links to your preferred channels or follow up individually.
- Guide the Conversation—Use social media to spark a conversation and see where it goes by asking for feedback on a particular topic. Putting it out to the masses may uncover some ideas or trends you otherwise wouldn’t know about.
You’ve got their undivided attention to ask everything you’ve ever wanted to know. What could go wrong?
- Beware of “Happy Ears”—During this personal dialog, customers may be less likely to bluntly share information that might upset you to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Instead of saying “No, I’ll never use that” they might couch it with platitudes such as “that might be interesting.” If you’re not careful, those “meh” reactions could lead you astray.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Go “Off Script”—Customer interviews can go in unexpected directions. Pursue these paths only as long as they’re useful and relevant; it can be great new intel and makes the customer feel heard.
Customer Advisory Boards
What’s better than one customer interview? Lots of customers talking to each other about your product—and you get to listen and chime in! While customer advisory boards are undoubtedly useful, there are some ways to optimize the format.
- Divide and Conquer—Lumping everyone into one large CAB might seem efficient and productive, but the panel’s diversity will actually work against you AND might turn off some members. Not all users are the same and the needs and experiences of customers with different personas coming from multiple industries and various company sizes could emphasize the differences between them, taking the focus off your product. Try smaller boards grouped around industry, company size, geography or specific usage behaviors for a true peer group.
- Listen to Different Voices—Ditch go-to board members and bring in some fresh blood. Without mixing up who you’re talking to and freshening up each board’s dynamics there’s risk of an echo chamber effect distorting things.
- Return Value—CAB members give their time and put in the work to provide valuable insights and feedback, so give them something in return. Networking and interacting with peers from other companies is one aspect, but early access to products, extra licenses and additional support and customization are nice perks to throw in as well.
Wrapping it up
Feedback is only as valuable as what you do with it; leaving it festering in an online repository or trapped in a notebook isn’t helping anyone. Here are a few final best practices for your B2B customer feedback program:
- Centralize—Pick a single place for all feedback that’s accessible to the entire product team and organized enough to be useful.
- Close the loop with customers—They took the time to provide feedback, the least you can do is follow up. Even if you don’t act on it, it reinforces that they’re being heard and encourages future input.
- Close the loop with internal teams—Your coworkers also want to know if their suggestions are being implemented and if there’s news to share with customers that originally raised the issue.