In today’s world of SaaS platforms, it is more important than ever for product managers to understand the wants and needs of their users — things are getting more competitive every day, and product managers must stay ahead of the game.
In their 2023 Survey of the Product Management Profession, the Product Focus team discovered that product managers spend 35% of their time working out what the right product is. Collecting and managing feedback from users is a critical activity in determining this.
User feedback is the information you get from users about your web application, website, product or service. It usually comes in the form of opinions, comments, suggestions or reports and it gives you a real sense of how people use and perceive your product… what’s working and what isn’t.
It’s the best way to know if people are actually getting value from your product and if you need to pivot or make adjustments. Furthermore, understanding user feedback can help you be more proactive in solving customer problems before they arise.
These insights can be used to guide product development and focus resources on areas that will benefit users the most (what will work and what won’t).
Collecting, evaluating and managing user feedback and feedback loops is essential to creating a successful product and continuously evolving and improving your product to meet the needs of your users. User feedback comes in many shapes and sizes, but there are three fundamental categories to consider.
What we’re going to cover today:
Proactive and reactive collection of user feedback
Product managers can proactively source — or ‘solicit’ — direct feedback and they can monitor for reactive — or ‘unsolicited’ — feedback.
Proactive (solicited) Feedback
Proactive user feedback is a form of user input that is solicited by the product owner. This could be through surveys, interviews and focus groups, where users are asked directly to provide feedback. This type of feedback is incredibly useful because it’s focused and personal, allowing product owners to fine-tune their product according to the answers and opinions of those who are using it.
Reactive (unsolicited) Feedback
Comes naturally as users interact with the product and react to the experience. This could be in the form of comments, reviews, user testing and more – all generated without any prompting from the product owner. This type of feedback is invaluable in that it allows product owners to identify potential issues and opportunities for improvement that they may not have been aware of.
“Getting outside voices is crucial. The fact is, most people are so terrified of what an outside voice might say that they forgo opportunities to improve what they are making. Remember: Getting feedback requires humility. It demands that you subordinate your thoughts about your project and your love for it and entertain the idea that someone else might have a valuable thing or two to add.”
Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts
Structured and unstructured user feedback
When it comes to how user feedback is structured there are two broad categories:
Structured user feedback
Structured feedback is highly organized and tends to come from quantitative sources, like surveys or polls that ask specific questions about a product or service. Structured user feedback is easy to analyze because it’s organized into groups and categories. This makes it easier to identify patterns or trends in a product or service over time. It also allows for more accurate measurements of customer satisfaction.
Unstructured feedback, on the other hand, is often full of opinions and emotions that can be harder to make sense of. Unstructured feedback is less organized and usually comes from qualitative sources, like customer reviews or comments on social media. It can be difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from unstructured feedback, but it can also provide valuable insights into how customers feel about a product or service.
Ultimately, both structured and unstructured user feedback are equally important for understanding how customers interact with your SaaS platform, web application or website.
Because many KPIs are based on quantitative metrics, you also need qualitative feedback to understand exactly what you need to do to ensure you’re delivering the best experience possible for your users and nurturing greater long term customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Get deeper insights with visual and contextual user feedback format
Whether it’s solicited or unsolicited, structured or unstructured, user feedback can be submitted by users in many different formats.
Visual user feedback
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is no truer than in the world of user feedback! ‘Visual’ user feedback is feedback that comes with screengrabs, videos, drawings and any other visual information that clearly illustrates the story around that piece of feedback. For example a user may come across an issue and rather than simply sending an email saying ‘It’s broken’ they may capture screenshots or even video footage to demonstrate what, where, when and how something did not work the way they would expect it to.
This visual feedback is much easier to evaluate than Written Feedback (a simple written description of what happened) as it enables the product manager and software team a far greater level of detail when it comes to having the information that they need to identify, understand and recreate the issue in order to fix it.
Contextual user feedback is the process of collecting feedback from users in the context of their experience within an application or service. This type of feedback helps to provide a deeper understanding of how users interact with an application or service, providing insight into what works and what could be improved. By collecting contextual user feedback, developers are able to create a more user-friendly experience.
To build products that users love you need to first understand what they need. This means gathering their feedback in a meaningful way that gives you actionable insights.
Before you can decide how you are going to collect feedback (through activities like interviews, user testing, surveys, bug reports and feature requests) you need to understand the three fundamental categories of user feedback based on:
- Collection: Proactive and Reactive
- Structure: Structured and Unstructured
- Format: Visual, Contextual and Written
The Ultimate Guide to User Feedback for Product Managers
Download The Ultimate Guide to User Feedback Management to discover how you can streamline your user feedback processes to better understand what your users need and deliver the features they want, faster!