5 Rules for Effective Customer Feedback

As a product owner or product designer, you often start with a vision for whatever you’re creating. You start off with a mission to address a perceived need in the market, and set out to fulfill it and, in turn, fulfill your need for profitability. It’s super motivating to be able to complete your product and launch it, considering that most startups and independents don’t even get that far.

However, your vision and what potential clients see will often differ. They may not recognize the problem you are solving. They may see a similar issue but not similar enough that your product also solves their issue. They might simply not understand the reason why a product like this exists.

In any of these cases, it’s crucial that you find out what customers think before you launch – so that you can correct issues before you end up wasting your great idea and precious resources. The following 5 rules are very important to remember to get the most of your customer feedback.

1) Prepare to be Rejected

The foundational component of customer feedback is figuring out what’s wrong with the product. It is very likely, that you know what’s right with it already. Hopefully, the right things are baked into your value proposition.

However, your feedback process should ultimately trigger a change in your product. This means that sometimes you will hear ‘this does not make sense’.

People will sense if you’re touchy about this. They will try not to hurt your feelings and will mitigate and lighten their feedback while simultaneously focussing your attention on the good parts that you already know well. The outcome is that valuable feedback gets lost and that’s a tragedy.

Be prepared to hear ‘you shouldn’t even be doing this’ or ‘this is shit’. The truth is that although it’s going to sting, it will make the product better. If you don’t let the dialogue shut down, you get a chance to channel their negative ‘it sucks’ type of feedback into something more constructive.

Many times we’ve witnessed the transformations of completely unstructured and blasting reactions into helpful suggestions through clarifying questions.

2) Listen, Don’t Guide

Unless you’re so early in the product cycle that you’re left to describe it, the only type of thing you should say when you’re getting feedback is ‘I see’ or ‘what are you thinking now?’ Your one instruction to the person is to say everything they think, pretend they’re a 4-year-old who hasn’t developed anything beyond basic motor skills yet and make them tell you every last detail.

It is very helpful to take notes, but sometimes it is too hard to keep up. There will be a lot of information if they’re doing it right, so you had better be recording everything. With their permission, of course.

We’ve used Cassette in the past and it worked like a charm. Alternatively, the option of hiring a transcriber is always available. One way or the other, there needs to be a process to utilize those recording. The analysis is invaluable.

3) Find the Right People

This one is obvious, right? Well, kind of, but the reality is that your first inclination is to talk to friends or family. You know you shouldn’t be doing that.

Don’t seek feedback from your employees nor anyone in your social circle. It’s very easy to create an echo chamber of positivity. ‘Yes Bill, your glow-in-the-dark dish soap is totally cool and is something that I’d buy every day.’ That’s what a friend would say. The stranger in the bar, however, would probably tell you that he’d worry about the chemicals that make it glow.

Look for people that would be most inclined to give you open and honest feedback.

4) Make a Task List

You should list the steps you want your user to take; 5 hoops for your test customer to jump through.

They shouldn’t be complex or frustrating – they could be as simple as:

  • ‘find the best app icon on the phone and open it’
  • ‘take a picture within the app’
  • ‘find a picture you like and follow the photographer’

One way or the other, keeping it scoped, focused, and repeatable is important for measuring and comparing.

5) Filter User Feedback

This one may be confusing. ‘So... they shouldn’t filter their responses, but I have to?’ Yeah, exactly.

Not every problem they mention is new. Not every frustration they feel is a valid issue. Maybe they didn’t read the intro, maybe they’re color blind. You decide what feedback is valid and what is invalid and you need to think hard.

Sometimes, going down the wrong path would mean a complete redesign of the entire app or a business model change.

Prioritize carefully and you can take your product to the next level.

Conclusion

User testing can be done at any stage of a product’s lifecycle, from conceptualizing to validation of its usability to development to post-launch when you want to find out how your product could be further improved. You should use it all the time. It takes courage. It won’t be pleasant and it shouldn’t be, but it will help.

Alex Panov

Product Lead @ Quantum Mob

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