The following is an excerpt adapted from Building a Feedback Machine, our free eBook geared towards product managers who need an effective, scalable method of capturing and leveraging customer feedback. Get the full version for detailed advice on how to build your a process that works for you and your organization.[cta id=”2004146″ align=”none”]

Customer feedback is a driving force behind every product’s development; we can use it to make decisions about how we build our products, validate ideas, prioritize roadmap initiatives, and we can even leverage it as a source of ideas when searching for new opportunities to innovate.

Relevant, actionable feedback can be worth its weight in gold (figuratively, of course), but only if you have the structure to gather it. Unfortunately, gathering quality feedback from internal teams is a challenge for even the most experienced product managers at organizations of all stages and sizes.

While there’s a huge desire to incorporate more feedback from users and customer-facing teams into product decisions, the majority of product managers don’t have a functional feedback communication process in place. Fortunately, it’s not impossible to develop one — it just takes some strategic know-how and the willingness to implement a few best practices:

1. Improve product roadmap communication

improving product roadmap communication
It’s pretty hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Establishing where you’re heading in the long-term will help guide your more short-term objectives like quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and get everyone on the same page. In other words, in order to see the details, everyone must know and understand the larger vision.

What’s most important is that you’re keeping customer teams informed about what your product team is working on and the goals of each initiative. This way, they can share relevant feedback with you that aligns with these goals rather than guessing at what feedback matters or, worse, sharing self-serving feedback.

2. Pick the right feedback communication channels

There are several ways to gather feedback from your team. Master any or all of them:

  • Email and chat – collect feedback directly through personal messages.
  • Team meetings – sit down monthly or bi-monthly to have face-to-face conversations.
  • Feedback reports – collect customer feedback reports from each team
  • Individually – collect feedback from individual stakeholders.
  • Collaborative spreadsheets – customer-facing teams enter feedback into a spreadsheet.
  • Feedback collection platforms – designated software to collect and organize feedback

3. Establish a scalable feedback process

You shouldn’t waste your time implementing a system or process that your team will outgrow in 6 months. Spending a little extra time up front to find a solution that can grow with you is well worth it. It will help prevent the game of telephone that happens when feedback is coming in from all directions and there’s no system in place to filter it.

As a general rule, writing down feedback and keeping it in one place is a much easier to manage it than sharing it verbally, but in some instances you’ll need to continue the dialogue with the colleague or customer who shared it with you.

Be sure whatever process you go with allows you to easily reach the original source of feedback so that you can follow up with more questions, involve them in beta testing (if the source is a customer), or even close the loop with them about any decisions made based on the feedback.

4. Gather the right feedback

You need to ensure that you adopt a process that allows you to capture and store both qualitative feedback and any accompanying quantitative data that’s shared with you without having to do a ton of extra work. Also, you’ll thank yourself later if your system makes it easy for you to organize the feedback you receive in a manner that is easy for you revisit and use to make decisions without having to spend a lot of time searching.

5. Give your feedback context

Without context, a piece of customer feedback is just a soundbite: a string of words and maybe a few emotions that tell part of a story. It can be difficult to make informed decisions without the full story because, as the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. In this case, the details are data.

If you can get support and other customer-facing teams into the habit of bringing you the full story via “quantified qualitative feedback” — customer feedback that’s tied to the metrics you use while making product decisions — you’re already improving your feedback process. Suddenly, “Customers are asking for feature X” turns into “20 of our most unhappy long-term customers who collectively spend a total of $200k a month on our product are asking for feature X.” Now that’s more like it.

6. Not all customers are created equal

building a customer feedback machine
Yes, all of your customers are important — but some customer feedback is more important than other customer feedback.

Before making any decisions based on customer requests, you should always determine the weight of the feedback, including how long the feedback-giver has been a customer, their Net Promoter Score, etc. Keeping this at the forefront of your process will save you mega-time and give you better insight into what you should prioritize.

Once you’ve put these critical feedback practices in place, you’ll have a new, shiny feedback machine — long-lasting, self-sufficient, able to grow with you, and helping to improve your product development process for years to come.

Learn more about creating a scalable feedback process by downloading our free eBook “Building a Feedback Machine”.