A Guide to User Feedback – How to collect and use it

Designing beautiful products and establishing a great business might sound easy from your perspective.

But that isn’t the perspective that determines the success of your company, it is your users’. This is why collecting and using user feedback is a vital part of making progress.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss:

What is User Feedback?

User feedback is any information that your customers provide you with regarding how your company or your products or services helped them in some way. It usually consists of their level of satisfaction with you and what satisfies or dissatisfies them.

It can be a review that says your product is awesome, a message that complains about your business, or a feature request that explains how your product could be more useful. Any opinion of your customers is important as their satisfaction is what makes you a successful business.

It’s not a new concept either, but the rules of the user feedback game are definitely changing:

“While collecting user feedback may not be new, the channels available to us where we can collect it have certainly expanded. User research is no longer relegated to field observation or even research labs. Like so much of the rest of doing business, the collection of feedback has also expanded to digital channels.”

from Qualaroo’s guide to Collecting User Feedback

Why is user feedback important?

Acquiring and utilizing user feedback is crucial for a few reasons, which are:

Iterative Improvement

It pinpoints what you are doing well and what needs improvement. You and your team have lived and breathed with your product or service for a long time, but that is not the case for your users. You may be unable to see design issues or imperfections, but new users will see them instantly. Since your products are made for your customers, it makes sense to listen to those customers to learn what they think about what you are providing them with.

Customer Importance

Listening to customer feedback will give your customers a sense of importance and being listened to. However, be sure to use their feedback, otherwise, the customers who provided that feedback may feel used or neglected. 

Personalization

Good feedback helps generate personalized recommendations that can drive word-of-mouth sales.

Process Improvement

It can help you design better processes. You can use market benchmarks or the pricing or delivery times of your competitors to guide certain decisions, but some decisions, such as after-sales help, safe packaging, and polite customer service staff are things you must build yourself and refine based on customer feedback.

Leverage Negative Feedback

Even negative feedback can be used to improve offerings, so listen to unhappy customers to learn about what you can do to make things right for everyone else who may have faced – or may face – the same issue.

Improve Segmentation

Feedback can give you insights into new customer segments that can help you open up new markets or better meet the needs of specific users or personas.

Brand Loyalty

If you pay attention to customer feedback, you can personalize customer experiences and build brand loyalty. 

Some of the low-cost changes you may be able to make based on user feedback include:

  • Improving your website: Personalizing offerings to customer needs, such as offering a certain add-on that you never realized certain customers may want.
  • Improve customer loyalty: This can help expand long-term revenue, especially since acquisition is widely known to be more expensive than retention.
  • Buying channels: Learn more about how your customers found out about you so that you can invest in improving customer experiences in those corridors.
  • Improve targeting: Create better-targeted content, which is a cornerstone of inbound marketing that can bring strangers to your website, turn them into customers, and delight them into becoming promoters. 
  • Refine segmentation: Refine buyer personas using customer feedback so that you can improve the overall customer experience by more narrowly defining target groups and expanding or improving offerings to different sets of users.
what is user feedback

When to collect User Feedback

User feedback should be collected throughout the product lifecycle.

Ideation

Potential users should be consulted during the ideation phase to ensure that the proposed product is meeting a genuine need and to determine how they intend to use the product, and what functionality and features they expect.

This is generally done through activities that allow you to collect in-depth feedback from a limited number of key potential users, so focus groups, interviews, and diary studies.

Development

These same key users will generally continue to be consulted throughout the development phase, often being asked to participate in usability testing, and also A/B testing of specific features so that they can be optimized for the expected use of key customers.

Ongoing Improvement

Once a product is launched, Product Managers will start to collect feedback from actual users, rather than potential users.

This generally takes the form of user forums and feedback. It allows for picking up on problems and challenges that only make themselves known in real-world use. It also allows product managers to identify desired new features and complementary products as users discover potential new uses for the product, again through real-world use.

As new features are identified as part of the improvement process, you can then return to ideation stage consultation for this feature, and the cycle continues.

when to collect user feedback

How to collect User Feedback

During the earlier stages of the product lifecycle, you are generally working with a captive group of key potential users.

They are a specially selected group that has agreed to work with you on a number of specific tasks. At the ongoing improvement stage, you are widening your net. You have more users, and they are working with your product “in the wild”, rather than within your controlled product development space.

So, what is the best way to gather feedback from users at this stage?

Surveys

One of the most effective and simple ways to collect user feedback during the ongoing improvement stage is through surveys.

These give users the opportunity to let the company what is working and what isn’t working. These can be administered at a variety of different times.

New users should generally be sent a survey three to four months after starting to use the product. This gives them time to come to grips with the product, how they are doing to use it, and identify what works and what doesn’t work for them. Regular customers can be sent a survey about once every six months, or a month or so after new features have been released.

Another key time to collect feedback from users is when they leave the product.

This is that message that you see when you unsubscribe from something. “We are sorry to see you go, can you tell us why you are leaving?” This often cuts right to the heart of product issues, as this is the reason that they are abandoning.

Good practice should make this off-boarding practice as simple as possible. Tick boxes should be given to cover the main reasons why the Product Manager thinks that people are leaving the product. There should also be an opportunity to leave an open-ended explanation for their decision to leave.

When surveying regular customers, in order to make data usable, responses should be segmented. They should be segmented into clear customer groups, such as premium vs freemium users and regular vs occasional users.

Forums

Another valuable source of user feedback is to establish forums for users, where users can ask you, and other users, how to deal with any issues that emerge.

This allows you to keep an eye on issues as they emerge, rather than having to wait for your six-monthly survey round, as well as allowing you to deal with any negative comments quickly, and not letting issues fester.

However, it is important to realize that this feedback will be skewed to the negative. It is generally only those who have problems that take to forums, with the vast majority of satisfied users never engaging in this way. Those who respond, beyond your own team, are likely those who have had similar problems or are your genuine power users that are heavily invested in your product.

Even more problematic is the feedback that is received via social media. Satisfied users using your product to complete their day to day tasks with no issues will rarely think to take to social media to say anything about you. It is generally only people who have had a particularly negative experience that takes their issues to social media. This is exactly where you will find those loud voices that drown out the experience of the overall pack.

Observation

However, it is a common mistake that Product Managers make at the ongoing improvement stage that they rely almost exclusively on self-reported data from users, through surveys and forums.

While users do not lie, people are generally very bad at reporting on their own activities and reasoning. When giving feedback, people tend to remember things in the most positive light and are also inclined to give the answers that they think those conducting the survey want or expect to receive.

For this reason, at the ongoing improvement stage, it is important to not only ask people what they are doing and what kinds of challenges they are having but find opportunities to observe users.

This brings to light things that users can’t, or won’t, report. This can be done through analytics tracking but is generally best achieved by sending out members of the product team to observe key users while using the product. Key users that are invested in the product will usually be happy to participate in this kind of activity.

This kind of observational work can reveal workarounds that users are happy with, but they have made for themselves and are outside the normal functioning of the service. It can also reveal users utilizing the product in unexpected ways that might never be revealed through a survey, as the product manager may never think to ask about this.

Milkshakes

A famous example of this is when a fast-food company decided that they wanted to improve sales of their milkshakes.

They conducted a lot of surveys with customers to discover what would make their milkshakes more delicious: should they be thicker, fruitier, sweeter, and so forth. Changes were made to the product, but there were no increases in sales.

A team was sent in to observe what was happening in-store to see if this could provide any additional insight. They discovered that 40 percent of milkshakes were being purchased by single customers as takeaways in the morning, who were using it as a one-handed breakfast while on their commute.

In response to this, the store made self-serve milkshake machines available near the entrance where users could also pay on card, skipping the queues at the counter or the drive-through. Surprise, morning sales saw a nice jump.

Observing how customers are using a product can reveal valuable insights that you didn’t even know that you were looking for, and should form an essential part of user feedback gathering at the ongoing improvement stage.

how to collect user feedback

The one type of Feedback you can and should start collecting today

It’s Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Why should you start today?

Because it gives you actionable insights,

and thousands of businesses use it,

and simply because you CAN start today.

If you don’t know what NPS is and why it matters, you can check out our guide to NPS.

But if you already have an idea, and want to start collecting NPS right now, here are the top 5 NPS tools that are worthy of your business.

How to utilize User Feedback

In order to utilize the feedback you have gathered, you first need to analyze what it means and then take action:

Analyzing the Feedback You Gathered

After you collect feedback from various users, it is time to handle the incomplete, inconsistent, or sometimes contradictory data. It is important to analyze customer feedback well to take solid steps.

To properly analyze the feedback you gathered, you should first be aware that there are many different segments of customers. Grouping them according to the using frequency and plans can be extremely helpful as each customer has their own expectations from your service.

After carefully reading the data, you can code the feedback to reveal the common themes. The volume and repetition of the feedback are also important. If surprisingly many customers from different segments say that your recent extension is problematic, you should give voice to that feedback.

Taking Action

Successfully implementing feedback to take a step to develop your product is an essential part of product development.

If it is poorly managed, user feedback can distract from the real problems, and waste precious time and resources. But if it is well managed, you can develop new ideas and plan efficient product improvements.

You can summarize the feedback you previously coded in a simple table or a short document to discuss it with your team. One of the best things you can do is to create a Top 10 out of the feedback to map out a product or service development plan.

Tips for improving the User Feedback collection process

So, in a nutshell, what are our top tips for collecting user feedback during the ongoing improvement stage of a product?

  • Don’t be afraid to asks for feedback. Sometimes we hold off on asking for feedback because we don’t want to harass our customers. But if you do it at the right time and in the right way, and not too often, they will probably be happy to help.
  • Do include the net promoter score and follow up questions in your survey. It is a great way to cut directly to what users like and don’t like about your product.
  • Do segment your customers into meaningful groups. The services you offer to premium and freemium users are likely different, as are the needs of users that have implemented your system across their company as opposed to individual users. Get greater clarity through segmentation.
  • Always ask leaving customers why they are leaving as part of the offboarding process. Users who have decided to leave are one of the best sources of information about issues with your product, even if that issue is a cheaper competitor.
  • Don’t be led astray by the loud voices. It is often someone with a bee in their bonnet about something that complains the loudest and the most. But they are not necessarily representative of most of your users. Learn to balance the feedback that you have received.
  • Don’t forget about the observation. Human beings are notoriously bad at self-reporting, and you can’t ask about issues you don’t know about. Consider short but intensive periods of user observation with key users as another way to collect feedback.

It is easy to get lost in user feedback.

But if you manage it well, it is also easy to take effective steps so that your customers can be satisfied and your company writes a story of success. To satisfy your customers even further, you should let them know that you value their feedback and listen to them.


Frequently Asked Questions


💬 Why should I collect user feedback?

User feedback gives you data on the current satisfaction of your users with you and ways to increase that satisfaction through their pain points.


🔧 Is there a tool to collect feedback?

Yes, there are various tools on the market to collect user feedback such as UserGuiding and Feedier.


👤 Who manages user feedback in a company?

Collecting, analyzing and using feedback are usually the tasks of either customer service departments or product managers.

Selman Gokce

Selman Gokce is the Senior Inbound Marketer of UserGuiding. He is highly invested in user onboarding and digital adoption, especially for SaaS, and he writes on these topics for the UserGuiding blog. When he's not writing, you can find him either listening to LOTR soundtracks while cooking or getting angry because he lost in a video game.

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