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Understanding why feedback fails could be the secret to effective product development, harnessing user feedback in building features and fixing bugs to make a great product.

At Userback, we champion Product-centric Development, and if you ask any business they’ll tell you the customer is at the heart of what they do. For software teams building apps or websites, in particular, it allows teams to gather insights directly from their users about what is working well and what needs improvement. However, user feedback can often fail to provide useful insights due to a number of reasons. When it starts to fail, often feedback is then pushed to the back as organizational and market noise competes for a share of mind (and product roadmap). So why does user feedback fail, and what’s at the heart of it?

Here’s 3 major reasons teams struggle to capture and utilize feedback…

User feedback fails reason 1: user feedback is not collected in a systematic way

One of the reasons why user feedback can fail is because it is not collected in a systematic way. Feedback needs to be gathered from a representative sample of users in order to be useful, but often it is only gathered from a small number of users or from users who are not representative of the larger user base. This can be caused through the use of ‘outbound user feedback collection’, in more simple terms email and survey’s pushed onto users in the hope of garnering feedback. Often, the only individuals that complete these are already champions who push overly positive messages, or those so annoyed they need to vent. Ultimately missing a vast majority of users who use the product. The reason this is ineffective is that it takes a large amount of effort on a busy user’s behalf to complete and without fresh experience in mind, may prove inaccurate even when submitted.

The solution to this first problem is relatively simple: adopt a user feedback platform that can collect feedback in an unobtrusive manner, at the time of use. When users are most engaged with the product and bugs, feature ideas and suggestions are at their clearest in a users mind. Feedback platforms that reside on the application or widget allow users to quickly and easily in a consistent format. By doing so, software teams can capture over 50% more feedback according to studies and capture a broader range of users at the same time.

User feedback fails reason 2: user feedback is not analyzed properly

Another reason why user feedback can fail is that it is not analyzed properly. In order to get useful insights from user feedback, it is important to analyze it in a way that takes into account the topics addressed, and frequency of similar suggestions. Not always an easy task when dealing with disparate pieces of information where users may suggest the same fix in two different ways, or express the same frustration using different language.

Adding to the analysis challenge, is the fact it can be hard to discern the meaning of feedback when it comes through and is overly vague or inconsistent, often the case with traditional email communication or surveys.

To overcome the analysis challenge, it is recommended to allow users to provide feedback in visual form with annotations or session and screen recordings. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to feedback it’s absolutely true. Visual feedback allows developers to see exactly the design challenge or bug fix required without ambiguity and features like session replays demonstrate the behavior undertaken to cause the issue – without users having to provide lengthy verbal explanations.

Capturing and collating this can also be made more simple by allowing users to view other feedback submissions, and seek the issue on their mind from others in a +1 or upvote style system. Bubbling the most common feedback points to the surface without the need to go into lengthy analysis of inconsistent data.

User feedback fails reason 3: user feedback is not acted upon

Failing User Feedback

Finally, user feedback can fail if it is not acted upon. Insights from user feedback are only valuable if they are used to improve the product. Often, user feedback is collected and analyzed but no action is taken, which means that the insights are not used to improve the user experience. This can lead to a more frustrated user, rather than a less frustrated one. Providing feedback that is never acknowledged meaningfully or acted upon can actually be detrimental to the relationship as users feel unheard.

Feedback needs to put at the fingertips of developers for action once the analysis and prioritization step mentioned above is completed by a Lead Developer or Product Manager. Feedback often finds its way into siloed pieces of information, separate from the existing workflows teams rely on to plan their activity and product roadmaps. And whilst many want to place all the information into workflows, the effort in doing so is prohibitive when dealing in manual collection methods.

To counter this, look to platforms that offer automation, and take the effort out of distributing the information. User feedback should be ingested into an initial gatekeeping phase (this could be Slack for example) and approved before being pushed into the developer workstreams (say, Jira or Asana) where Developers and Product Managers will have a unified view and timeline on delivery. This needn’t be a heavy lift for teams relying on digital tooling to automate those workflows and assist in putting information where it needs to be.

To wrap this up, user feedback is an important element in building a great product, but it can often fail to provide useful insights due to a number of reasons. It is important to collect user feedback in a systematic way, analyze it properly, and take action on the insights in order to improve the user experience. Software teams should embrace digital tools on this front, like in many others to help address the biggest hurdles and improve the quality of their survey information.

The single most important step though, is to just get started, collect feedback and make your users feel valued. You’ll build loyalty and improve revenue, and save your Product Manager and Developers a ton of time and headaches.

Want to give it a go? 20,000 software teams are already integrating user feedback into their development process with Userback’s user feedback platform. Try it free for 14 days now and find out just how easy it is.