Without a good customer feedback source, you are destined to fail.
I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Think of every successful business that you know and I promise you that their success comes from a deep understanding of customers.
Don’t just take my word for it though. As Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, puts it, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
And I couldn’t agree more. If you’re not learning from customers and actively seeking feedback, you’re missing out on a goldmine of useful information.
I probably don’t need to convince you though on the value of customer feedback. Chances are you’re one of the 86% of businesses who already collect some sort of customer feedback on an ongoing basis.
But with so many feedback options available, what are the best customer feedback sources for your time and money?
In this article we’ll explore the different customer feedback sources and how to make them work for your business.
Customer Feedback Source 1: Customer Interviews
Let’s start with the most obvious method for feedback.
Going straight to the source and talking with customers is simply the best way to get insight into what’s working and what isn’t.
Even though it sounds like a no-brainer, customer interviews are often an under-utilized source of feedback. For one simple reason: they take a lot of time.
Plus it can be difficult to find customers who are willing to speak with you. And even when you’ve found someone, you need to plan the right questions, set up calendar appointments, and work out the best way to conduct the interview.
Tools like Calendly, Zoom, and Hangouts certainly help with this and are must-haves for making it convenient for customers to participate.
On top of this though, you still need to find time in your day to conduct the interview, which could be anywhere from 15 – 60 minutes.
When scheduling your interview, remember to factor in enough time for planning and writing up your notes afterwards. A good rule of thumb is to double your allotted time for each interview. So if you have a 30 minute interview, you should give yourself at least 60 minutes in total.
Whilst there are highly trained professionals who specialize in interview techniques, don’t be afraid to jump in and give it a go. There are loads of free advice out there on how to conduct customer interviews, like this playbook from Atlassian, which is one of my favorite go-to resources.
It’s also a good idea to record your interviews. This helps you focus more on conducting the interview and actively listen to what your customer is saying. It also means you can transcribe the interview later in a tool like Otter.ai, which is a huge time-saver!
The trade off for these high-quality insights is the inability to scale this method.
Pro Tip: If you can’t commit to interviewing customers, try to leverage your existing customer interactions instead. For example, encourage your customer service team to ask some open-ended questions when interacting with customers. You may not get the insight you’re looking for, but you might get just enough to point you in the right direction.
Customer Feedback Source 2: Customer Service Team
If you’re not talking directly to customers, the next best thing is to interview the people who talk with them on a regular basis.
Your customer service team.
Whilst interviewing your own team members still takes a lot of time, it’s simpler than interviewing customers as you have a lot more control over the interview itself. All the same tools and rules apply as with customer interviews, but you’ll probably find it a lot easier to schedule interviews with your team than with customers.
When interviewing your customer service team, it’s important to remember the context of their experience with customers. In particular, your support team is more likely to talk about problems and challenges that customers have, because this is where they spend most of their time. After all, customers rarely contact support just to say how well things are going!
Don’t let this stop you though. Your customer service team is a valuable and cost-effective source of feedback. Just remember to balance out their feedback with other more scalable methods like the below.
Customer Feedback Source 3: Analytics and Tracking Tools
It’s important to remember that what customers say and what they do are often not the same thing.
This is why you need a tracking and analytics solution that actually shows you what customers do on your website and web applications.
Google Analytics is a great free tool, but if you’re serious about analytics, you’ll need something more advanced like Mixpanel or Gainsight PX. These tools might cost more, but the insight they provide is certainly worth it.
Once you have them setup to track your website or web application, you can measure things like feature adoption, conversion paths, engagement, retention, and more.
Pro Tip: On their own, analytics tools provide great insight into what’s going on with your customers. But to get the best ROI from these tools, you should combine them with other feedback sources. For example, instead of wasting time randomly trying to find customers to interview, use your analytics tool to find who is most engaged with your product. Or look for customers who seem to be struggling with a particular feature in your product and reach out to find out why.
Customer Feedback Source 4: Visual Feedback Platforms
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a screenshot with annotations must be worth 10,000!
Yes, we may be a little biased here, but visual feedback platforms like Userback are a great way to save time and get deeper insight into your customers at scale. With Userback, you can collect visual feedback on any product or web page so you can finally stop wasting time reading vague emails and spreadsheets where you can’t understand what customers are saying. Instead, you can rely on high-quality feedback with context. Analytics and statistics in the platform support prioritisation and decision-making.
They should also integrate seamlessly with your workflows and tools like Jira and Slack. So product managers, designers, and developers can easily collaborate and center the design and development lifecycle around the user.
The best visual feedback platforms provide a mechanism for a transparent, public engagement with customers around feature requests, ideas, and product development progress. This provides insight into what is actually valuable to your customers, validates or invalidates your ideas for product direction so you can pivot quickly and confidently, and reduces support burdens and churn.
The time and effort freed with Visual Feedback Platforms can go straight back into building value in your software products, and towards the less-scalable customer insight activities such as interviews.
Customer Feedback Source 5: Review sites
If only there was a place on the internet where you could see what people have said about your competitors.
Oh wait…there is. And it’s 100% free!
Review sites like Capterra and G2 are excellent sources of feedback. It takes some effort, but if you put on your super-sleuth cap and read through people’s reviews of your company and your competitors, you’ll notice there are often themes to what they say.
Another great way to use review sites is to connect with people who have given their feedback. After all, these people are more than likely going to be your target customers too. So if you’ve found a bad review on a competitor, why not reach out to that person and introduce yourself.
Pro Tip: Before researching a competitor on a review site, I prefer to research their website and product myself. This way I can form my own opinion before looking to see what others have said. This saves me time later when reading through comments in the review site, as I have a lot more context behind what is being said.
Customer Feedback Source 6: Community Forums
Another free source of customer feedback is a community forum like Reddit or Quora.
In addition to searching for your own company and product, you might also search for competitors, customer groups, and industry keywords.
It’s unlikely that you will get much in the way of insights into your own product, but community forums are a great way to learn from and interact with potential customers. By scanning through other people’s questions and discussions, you can quickly see what sorts of things people care about most. Plus you can ask your own questions.
Remember though, community forums are all about “community”. For best results, don’t treat them like a one-way street. Be sure to follow other people’s conversations and add your own contributions to the conversation.
Customer Feedback Source 7: NPS
NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and is a customer satisfaction benchmark that measures how likely your customers are to recommend your business to a friend.
To calculate your NPS score, you simply subtract the percentage of promoters from detractors. The “passives” are considered neutral and do not affect your NPS score.
However, as any good product manager will tell you, the real gold in the NPS survey is the open-ended comments question. This is where customers provide additional comments and feedback to add context to their score.
When looking through the comments, it helps to group feedback by customers’ scores. For example, grouping feedback from Promoters will provide an insight into what customers love about you. Conversely, grouping feedback from Detractors will highlight what you need to improve on.
Customer Feedback Source 8: Online Surveys
When it comes to getting feedback from a large number of customers, you can’t beat a well crafted online survey.
Tools like JotForm Survey Maker, Surveymonkey, and Typeform make it easy to create and manage surveys that you can send to your customers.
Usually the biggest challenge with creating online surveys is working out the best questions to ask. For best results, start by writing down the goals of the survey and what it is you are trying to learn about your customers. Then work backwards from there to come up with the questions you need to ask in order to get the insights you are looking for.
Customer Feedback Source 9: User Acceptance Testing
User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a type of testing performed by the end user or the customer and is one of the final steps before launching new software to the market.
Even though the purpose of UAT is specifically to verify the end-to-end business flow of the newly developed software, it is also an important source of customer feedback. Because if you’re doing it properly, UAT is completed by your customers and is the closest thing to “real world” testing with them.
Visual Feedback Platforms like Userback elevate user acceptance testing as they capture the browser meta-data, along with screenshots of the tester’s session. This saves a lot of time when analysing the test results and assigning UAT tasks for developers to resolve.
Customer Feedback Source 10: Social Media
Around 4.26 billion people use social media worldwide. And I’m willing to bet that a lot of those people happen to be your customers!
So whether you’re posting survey requests, sending direct messages, or running competitions to engage with customers, social media is a great source of customer feedback.
More than that though, social monitoring tools like Hootsuite make it easy for you to monitor what people are saying about your company. This can often provide more insight than speaking to customers yourself, as people tend to be more honest when they are not talking to you directly.
You may not use all of these feedback sources in your business. But remember that when you consistently collect and analyze feedback from customers, you’ll quickly learn what is working well and where you need to improve. So experiment with the feedback sources above and find the right combination for your business.