As Head of the Community Department at UserVoice, my focus is on retaining our customers through actions that reach many people at once. While Ted and our support team do a fantastic job helping customers on a one-to-one basis, my team works to reach large numbers of  users and delight them.

One of the tools that we use to accomplish this is UserVoice Feedback. It’s a powerful tool because it allows you to efficiently learn what your customers really want. This, crucially, includes the silent majority – all those folks either too busy or too nervous to speak up, but happy to click “vote” next to an idea they agree with.

So, what do we do with this powerful crowdsourcing tool?

Finding product suggestions to act on

The most obvious use of a UserVoice Feedback Forums is finding feature requests to surface to our Product Team. These include top-voted ideas, but also low-hanging fruit and flash points.

Flash points

Votes are important, but emotion is too. By checking the forum every day, we’re able to catch potential flash points before they burn. Comments like “if this doesn’t get built soon then I’m cancelling my account” or “it’s ridiculous that this hasn’t been built” can just be squeaky wheels…but if you’re seeing enough of them, they can be a great sign of a huge pain point for your customers (one that might tip the scales towards your competitors).

Low-hanging fruit

Some ideas are easy to implement but may delight a lot of customers. Things like adding instructions for how to embed our widget, displaying the URL from which an idea was created, and shortening really long search field text. They may not seem like much, but these little things add up to a great experience (not to mention our team likes to get the occasional easy project handed to them).

Getting them built

When we do find high-voted ideas, flash points, or low-hanging fruit, we bring it to our weekly customer feedback meeting with the Product team (the Customer Support and Sales teams also bring feedback they’ve heard). We carefully explain the customer pain we’ve discovered – carefully avoiding suggesting any solutions from the customers or ourselves, as it’s the Product team’s job to come up with solutions. The Product team then decides which ideas will be addressed, which won’t ever be addressed. If they feel that any ideas aren’t compelling enough, it’s our job to bring them up again the next time we see significant feedback about them.

Responding to feedback

All these ideas and votes from your customers are also a great opportunity to make an emotional connection with them, which will greatly increase the likelihood that they’ll spend more money with your company. It’s an opportunity to delight and retain that silent majority who would normally leave your business silently.

Customers don’t expect companies to listen to them. Why? Because most companies don’t…and many who claim to never act on or respond to your feedback. So it’s important that your UserVoice Feedback Forum doesn’t become (or even seem to be) the proverbial suggestion box which gets emptied into the circular file. The most important part of this is actually responding to customers. Sadly, this is also the part that many companies fail at. They’re scared or busy or not sure what to say, and their customers hear nothing but crickets.

So it’s simple: we respond to ideas. We try to keep our “open” idea count constantly decreasing. We do this by acting on feedback (as mentioned above) but also by liberally declining ideas. If that makes you nervous, don’t worry: customers actually like it when you say no.

It’s all about communication

Almost every broken relationship, every lost friendship, and every failed product lead back to bad communication. It’s hard to communicate with each other, but when we succeed it’s a powerful source of loyalty. UserVoice Feedback allows my team to communicate frequently and effectively, and our customers’ loyalty grows because of it. Give it a try, and feel free to tweet @UserVoice if you have any questions about best practices!

-Evan Hamilton
Head of Community, UserVoice

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