5 Product Experts Explain How to Get Clearer Customer Feedback
We have a goal for our product management team. All customer ideas should be reviewed within 24 hours and categorized. This forces the team to quickly assess what customers are sharing and ask clarifying questions if necessary.
Product managers know that their success depends on having a clear vision and understanding what customers actually think. But the problem is that feedback is often not clear.
Listening to customers is obviously important. However, many people do it shallowly because there are so many other priorities. I get it. It happens to me too. Every day brims with tasks, you are shifting contexts quickly, and it can be tempting to slip into a check-it-off-the-list mentality. Attended that customer call? Great, done. Record some notes and onto the next thing.
You might even be gaining a few insights every so often this way. But it is also possible you are missing the opportunity to go deeper and align customer ideas with product strategy. One way to improve your ability to hear customers individually as well as a collective is by capturing feedback in a central place and integrating it into your daily work. When you have a system for reviewing, scoring, and promoting ideas to your roadmap, you can move forward more quickly with the ones that will provide real value. With this in mind, we recently updated our product value scorecard for a more consistent way to score and prioritize ideas and features.
Setting up an idea management process gives you guardrails for moving customer ideas through your product development engine. But it is also worth reflecting on how you show up in conversations with customers and how you can make each interaction as purposeful as possible.
The product experts on the Aha! team speak with customers regularly, so I asked them to weigh in on this topic. Here is what they had to say:
Listen the first time
"Keeping customers engaged is no different from keeping anyone engaged in a conversation. You need to make sure the topics you bring to the table are relevant to your customer and bring real value to them, not just you. Actively listen to what your customers are most challenged with every day and what keeps them up at night. This is what should keep you up as well. If your customer has to shout at the top of their lungs to get your attention and then wait weeks for a meaningful reply, they will eventually stop communicating." — Deb Gay, Sr. Product Success Manager
Request feedback often
"It is important for product managers to proactively initiate conversations with customers. If you always wait for customers to reach out to you first, you limit your learnings. Not every customer is the type to reach out first. If you are not careful, your roadmap can start leaning towards feedback from a small subset of vocal customers. There are so many ways to initiate conversations — share and seek feedback on your roadmap, send relevant polls and surveys, or ask teammates in Customer Success to put you in touch with customers whose use cases you want to learn more about. Reaching out proactively ensures you get the feedback you need on topics that align with your strategic plans. — Kelly Sebes, Sr. Product Manager
"Make it easy for customers to leave feedback when their need is fresh. Ideas portals, in-app feedback widgets, live chat on your website — these can all be conduits for immediate feedback. Whatever you offer, make sure your customers know that you have done something with their feedback. Close the loop and provide progress updates. And make sure to give a clear 'no' when necessary — they will respect that more than silence." — Reilly O'Connor, Product Success Manager
"We run a live tutorial program to help customers get the most out of new functionality across the Aha! suite. It is a great forum for customers to ask questions and share feedback — we can then pass those findings along to our product management team. Collecting customer feedback should be everyone's job. Allow anyone in the organization to submit and vote on ideas on behalf of customers — you will open up whole new conversations. — Rose Thompson, Sr. Product Marketing Manager
"Build real relationships with your biggest fans. This might look like creating a customer advisory board or holding ongoing empathy sessions. Find people who love your product so much they want (and need) you to succeed with all their hearts. These are the people who will cheer you on when you get it right or provide direct and candid feedback when you miss the mark. This group can be a wellspring of knowledge and a massive resource for product teams." — Nathaniel Collum, Sr. Product Manager
Customers cannot always tell you what they need — but they can speak to what they care about. Mine every conversation for opportunities to build creative solutions and improve the product.
Slow down the next time you are zipping past a customer idea or hurrying to end a call. Remember that your customers are real people with real concerns. Even if a request is misaligned with current priorities, you can be sure you gave it the consideration it deserves. The capacity to treat every idea with care and optimism is an essential piece of innovation.
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