Today’s PMs have access to huge amounts of data, but hard numbers are only one piece of the product experience puzzle. Qualitative feedback from customers and users is the other.

What is feedback?

Feedback is information provided by customers and/or users about their experience with a product or service. Its purpose is to reveal their level of satisfaction and help product, customer success, and marketing teams understand where there is room for improvement. Companies can collect feedback proactively by polling and surveying customers, interviewing them, or by asking for reviews. Feedback can also be passively collected by providing users a place in the product where they can provide comments, complaints, or compliments.

Why is feedback important?

Without feedback, a company will never know if customers are getting value out of their product. Without knowing if they’re getting value, the product and go-to-market teams won’t know if they’re nurturing loyal customers (not to mention be able to measure customer retention and customer health). And without loyal customers, well …

According to Gartner, “customers’ salient experiences with the company heavily influence their long-term switching behavior and reflect the true drivers of loyalty.” How does one find out what their salient experiences were? Customer and/or user feedback.

What are the different types of feedback?

NPS: Net Promoter Score is a structured way to sort customers into promoters, passives, and detractors based on their 0-10 point rating for the question “How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend or colleague?”

CSAT: Customer satisfaction rating, typically administered after an interaction with support staff or other transactional events.

Feature requests: Customer feedback on feature enhancements or desired functionality is a key way to assess market demand and learn what to build next.

Release feedback: After the product team has shipped a new product or feature, collecting post-launch feedback is an important way to learn if the offering hit the mark or if there’s more work to be done.

How can I solicit user feedback?

Picklist

The user chooses one option from a pre-selected list. This is usually delivered as a drop-down menu or a radio button. Examples include “What’s your industry?” or “What’s your role?”

Multi-select

This question format allows the user to select more than one option for their answer. It is typically administered in a “check all that apply” type of question. Examples include “Which features would you be interested in testing?” or “What departments at your organization use this solution?”

Rating scale

This question is useful for getting quantitative information for releases or sentiment rating. Formats include NPS (0-10 rating), Likert scale (“On a scale from 1-7, how much do you agree with the following statements?”), 5-star rating (1-5 scale), or even a binary thumbs up/thumbs down rating.

Open text

This question format is an effective addition to quantitative rating scales, and can be helpful to understand the “why” behind any individual number rating. Ask users to provide detail on why they gave their previous quantitative rating.

How can I improve my customer feedback strategy?

Make it timely

Emailing a survey to a user may be asking more than they’re willing to give, especially because reading the email pulls them out of the product. Instead, survey them in-app so they receive the question while they are using the product. In-app surveys yield more accurate feedback and typically have higher response rates.

Make it easy

Collecting feedback should be done on the customer’s terms, not the company’s. What does this mean? Well, if a customer has to dig around in the product to find a “contact us” form, then it’s not exactly easy for them to provide the feedback the product and marketing teams covet. An occasional survey is also not enough. Effective programs make the feedback mechanism as simple as possible, available to any customer, any time.

Make it smart

Customers may have more than one piece of feedback to share, but not all feedback is created equal. It should also be easy for customers to rank their feedback priority — let them share what is most pressing for them, so that product, marketing, and customer success teams can better prioritize their actions.

Close the loop

Too often, companies collect feedback, but it ends up in a black hole, never to be synthesized or acted upon. Make sure the company has a clear vision and process in place before collecting feedback, as well as a tool to collect, prioritize, and manage feedback.

Recommended reading

Don’t Fear Customer Feedback by Kate Radway

Customer feedback can be scary — not because talking to customers is scary, but because customer feedback is so critical to building great products. Use these six tips to make gathering and organizing customer feedback as efficient as possible.

Measuring Learnings and Qualitative Feedback by René Rosendahl

User interviews and surveys are powerful tools in every PM’s arsenal. However, the results and learnings can be difficult to quantify. Luckily, a few best practices can help.

Dealing With Detractors: Four Steps for Addressing Negative Feedback by Mary-Sara Camerino

Seeking out criticism isn’t for the faint of heart, but you might be glad you did. In fact, detractors can be more valuable than promoters when it comes to feedback.

What Product Teams Need From Customer Success by Hannah Chaplin

To build great products, PMs need to balance hard data with user feedback. CS can really help with the second piece of the puzzle.

Customer Interviews: Should You Interview Users or Buyers? by Jim Semrick

Customer interviews are a valuable tool for finding out what your users really want and need from your product. Learn how to make the most of them.

Validating New Features With Customers Before You Build Them by Arpit Rai

You know the drill: you build an exciting new feature you think all of your users will love, then it sits unused. To avoid this situation, you need to make sure your customers will adopt this feature — before you even start building it.