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PHOTO: Joshua J. Cotten

We all know by now that listening to your customers is incredibly important to the success of your products and services. Hence, as you get ready to define your product roadmap, you know you need input from customers. So you’ll get some feedback from users and add that to your roadmap. Simple, right? Not quite .…

You’ll want to get customer feedback, preferably from a number of different sources. Most importantly, you’ll want to review that feedback to determine what makes sense to incorporate into your roadmap. In other words, not all user feedback is equal.

User feedback comes in different shapes and sizes. There is feedback you get from people (what people say) and indirect feedback where you may learn something based on what people do. 

Customer Feedback Type 1: What People Say

The things people think and say about your brand and their experience with your products, their sentiment and perception, can be captured in a number of ways and situations. These include exit surveys at the end of a website visit, a survey at the end of a customer service call, or online product reviews.

As mentioned above, not all feedback is equal, and, frankly, not all feedback is useful. When analyzing feedback, take a number of factors into account:

  • Recency: How quickly after an experience with the brand did the customer provide feedback? If it is very recent, that interaction is fresh in their mind, so they do recall it quite well. If information is provided a while later — like through a quarterly CSAT survey — there is risk that the customer won’t remember things clearly.
  • Context: Imagine a situation where a user interacts with customer service, and is asked to provide feedback on their experience with the product soon after that. The customer’s sentiment may be influenced by their recent interaction with customer service; e.g., if the issue was resolved, feedback may be extraordinarily positive. If not, it may be very negative.
  • Customer expectations: No matter how clearly we position our products and explain their features and value, there will be some customers who will feel that the product does not live up to their expectations or is not useful. This often happens because a customer tries to use the product in a way that it was not intended to be used. It is important to isolate such feedback, and thoroughly analyze it to determine whether this presents an opportunity or is not within the brand’s core direction.

Related Article: Not All Customer Feedback Requires Change

Customer Feedback Type 2: What People Do

You can gather a lot of data in live systems to understand customer behavior. Think of it as a reflection of what the user does, rather than what they say. Interestingly enough, you may find that what a customer says can contradict what their behavior tells us.

Examples of available information are:

  • Site analytics: This can be a great source of information and show you where customers dropped off along the customer journey. Site analytics can give you the “what” but not the “why.” Sometimes you don’t need to know the “why” — for example, when doing A/B testing. But if you do, then real user feedback is essential to understand why the customer behaved as they did.
  • Use of automated systems versus human interaction: Customer service tools include a number of automated options, such as IVR systems and chatbots. Logs provide indicators of the number of customers who opt to use automated systems versus “zeroing out” to speak to a live person. Again, this type of indirect feedback is data-driven by nature and as a result it showcases indicators (the “what”) but doesn’t explain a customer’s actions. To understand the “why” and remedy the behavior, you must secure user feedback on specific aspects of the interactions with your brand.

Related Article: The CX Power Couple: Why Customer Feedback and Analytics Must Both Inform Product Design

Turning Feedback Into Action

Now that you have all this information, what do you do with it? To turn the customer information you’ve gathered into useful insights to drive the product roadmap, critical analysis and deep understanding of the customer feedback is necessary.

Interpret the feedback within the bigger picture of the context of where and how the feedback was captured. Pay particular attention to negative feedback and determine the root cause to evaluate whether a product update will remedy the situation, and whether this update is in line with the brand.

It is clear that user feedback in any form is extremely valuable, but what you do with that feedback is even more important. As customer expectations rise, so does the need to incorporate real user feedback into your processes in order to ensure you are building products and experiences that will keep your customers coming back for more. By capturing what your customers think at the right times and learning about customers based on their behavior, you’ll have a greater understanding of your customers’ wants, needs and expectations, and will be able to best meet them going forward.