Product management guide Idea management How do product managers gather customer feedback?

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What is customer feedback?

Customer feedback is a term that describes the process of obtaining a customer’s opinion. It is an important tool in understanding the behavior and needs of your users in regards to your product or service. Listening to what customers say helps drill down to the why behind the what. This type of product feedback is most commonly used by product managers. It is important because it allows product managers to address customer challenges that need to be solved. It also allows for the opportunity to identify improvements, adding new functionality, or creating new products.

There are many reasons why this type of feedback is important. Ultimately, creating a Complete Product Experience should be the primary reason you gather customer feedback. To do this, you need to ask your customers what they want and use the insights to make improvements.

What methods are used for gathering customer feedback?

A variety of different research methods can be used to gather customer feedback during each phase of the product development lifecycle. Listed below are the most common methods grouped together for when they are most useful.

Ideation

Ideas portal

An ideas portal enables your customers to submit ideas, usually through a web-based interface. They often allow customers to view ideas submitted by others and include voting capabilities. Votes can give customers a voice and provide clarity on what matters most.

This feedback method gives product managers a continuous feedback loop by allowing customers to describe their current pain points. Product managers are also given the opportunity to respond. You can engage by communicating directly to the customers who have submitted ideas and then work on prioritizing the ideas and ranking their business value . This type of prioritization helps product managers understand which ideas should be developed into new product features.

1:1 interviews

1:1 interviews give customers the opportunity to tell you about how and why they use your product and where it does not meet their needs. By asking open-ended questions, product managers can receive thoughtful responses that allow customers to explore what is most important to them. Open-ended questions start with "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," or "how."

There are many important insights that can be gained from using the 1:1 interview method. These insights can provide details for what is and is not working with your product while also validating your assumptions.

Diary Studies

Diary studies are a type of research that typically take place over a long period of time with the same customers. Through self-reporting, customers will outline their actions at regular intervals to create a log of their activities, thoughts, and pain points.

Although they can be used for many scenarios, research questions that involve habits, perception change over time, or prolonged processes, are good situations for diary studies. In addition, diary studies are well suited for "how" type questions, such as "How do people use this?" or "How does our product factor into our customer's daily habits?"

Focus Groups

A focus group is a small group of people whose reactions are studied in guided or open discussions. Groups should be demographically diverse to ensure unbiased data. The goal of the discussion is to determine the reactions that will be expected from a larger population.

Typical focus groups consist of interviews in which customers are asked about their perceptions, opinions, or attitudes towards your product or service. During the session, questions are asked in an interactive setting where customers are free to talk openly with other participants. During the focus group, product managers or other researchers, take notes or record the session for later analysis.

Initial Development

Usability Testing

The method of usability testing is used to measure the product’s capacity to meet its intended purpose. A usability test usually involves creating a realistic situation where customers perform a list of tasks using your product. It can be used for observational findings that identify design features that are easy or hard to use or capture metrics such as task completion rates.

No matter what you are testing during a usability session, product managers and other observers should watch and take notes as the customer completes the assigned tasks. The goal of this type of method is to observe how customers function in a realistic manner. This allows problem areas within your product to be identified.

To assist with the session, scripted instructions, prototypes, and other questionnaires are used and will help keep the session focused to ensure the right data is being collected.

A/B testing

A/B testing is used to identify changes to a web page that increase an outcome of interest. For example, two versions of a web page are compared. They are identical except for one variable. The variable could be words, images, or other layout aesthetics. The A/B test will determine which version of the web page is more effective. The benefits of A/B testing are that it can be performed continuously on almost anything.

Ongoing Improvement

Customer success

Customer success teams likely understand your customer’s problems better than anyone in your company because they interact with customers on a daily basis. Their insights can be extremely valuable. Product managers can tap into this knowledge by helping customer success teams answer calls or provide support. Doing so will give you a direct line to your customers and you will have the opportunity to get whatever feedback you may need.

In addition to helping the customer success team, product managers should develop the necessary processes to ensure they receive the feedback from customer success on a regular basis. Doing so will allow you to have a continual feedback loop and better understand what is most important to customers.

User forums

User forums are online discussion sites where members can hold focused conversations in the form of posted messages. User forums can reduce support costs because customers will often answer each other’s questions. Customers will also share ideas on how to improve your product, make feature requests, or openly discuss how they have used your product in a unique, unintended way.

There are many benefits of user forums. Ultimately, by actively reading and engaging with these discussions, product managers can better understand the problems that need to be solved.

Analytics

Analytics are used to track your customer’s behavior. They allow product managers to understand the path each customer takes and how they are using the product.

There are many ways you can use analytics. Typically, analytics allow you to look across aggregate data sets or break things down to individual users. By understanding the true actions your customers are taking, you have a better understanding of what needs to be built to make improvements.

Surveys

Surveys allow product managers to poll customers and get their opinions. They can often be a low-cost, scalable way to capture feedback. Survey data can help product managers turn assumptions into facts and support or disprove a hypothesis. Understanding how you want to use the data will help you properly structure the survey.

What should you consider before collecting feedback?

Before you choose which method to use, it is important to define your research objective. Outlining what you want to learn will keep the scope of your research contained. Having a clear objective will also help you determine the right research method to use. It is also important to understand which potential customers or existing customers you want to collect it from. Clearly, in any large business, the experience of various segments of customers can be significantly different.

Once you set your goals and think through who you want to gather feedback from, as was outlined above, there are numerous research methods that you can use. By setting your research goals up front, you will be able to choose the appropriate method, conduct the research, analyze the findings, and make decisions that will improve the product.

What should you do with your findings?

After the research is complete, it is time to analyze the findings. However, without aligning the way you use feedback to your larger product vision, it is easy to get lost in the research data. Considering the following quote on this exact topic.

I'm not sure how useful data is if you don't have meaningful scale to test it against. It may be misleading. The way that we do things is that if we have an idea for something, we now kind of build it into the culture of this idea that it is okay to do something that doesn't scale. You go be a pirate, venture into the world and get a little test nugget, and come back and tell us the story that you found.

Joe Bebbia, Co-founder Airbnb

When you review your research data, summarize the findings and make the data available to the rest of your team. This will help your team understand the why behind the what of your product direction. By understanding the why, the team will be aligned and make better decisions because they understand where things are heading.

There are many ways to prioritize the work that is most important to your customers and the business. Gathering customer feedback is one of the ways and it allows you to validate ideas and plan product improvements. But even with the best research in hand, it is important to remember that it is only from a point in time and understanding what customers really want is an ongoing process.

For product managers, your customers are the best possible resource for gaining insight into how people are — or are not — using your product. Use the methods described above to approach the process and get started with gathering customer feedback today.

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