How To Manage Customer Feedback
No matter how you feel about customer feedback, one thing is universally true: you can’t ignore it. Whether you manage it or not, people will find a way to express their wants, needs, frustrations, and complaints. In the always-on, hyper-connected marketplace, positive feedback can spread quickly. That word-of-mouth advertising is the fastest way to help a business grow. Still, negative feedback can spread even faster. Find a way to channel this feedback, and you have a powerful way to improve your products and your relationship with your customers. Fail to manage the feedback, and you may find yourself in the middle of a customer relations nightmare. Most organizations understand this. Still, not as many have a clear plan and process to make the most of customer feedback.
Why Do We Collect Customer Feedback?
We know that customers will find some way to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction no matter what we do. Still, most organizations make some effort to collect customer feedback. Sometimes, the collection is the end of the journey for this feedback. It may end up in a spreadsheet or database and never again see the light of day. Still, why is it being collected? Too often, there is no real goal or purpose behind the collection of the data. Sometimes the reasoning is as plain as having a directive from the boss to do it. Some organizations may see it as what it takes to at least pretend they are a customer-centric organization. While feedback is a part of becoming a customer-focused business, there is more to it than just collecting and filing data.
Customer Feedback Can Improve Your Business
The real reason to collect customer feedback is to use it to improve your service to your customers, improve your product or service offerings, and grow your business. Customers have more choices than ever. We are a long way from the days when people might have had one or two options. We live in a global marketplace where our clients are always on the hunt for lower prices, better products, and the best customer service. If they can’t get what they want from you, it won’t take them long to find it elsewhere. The internet has created more informed and educated customers. They can access a bottomless pool of information from the palm of their hands. They can also quickly find out about your business and how your customers, current and former, feel about you and your products or services.
Using Customer Feedback Is the Best Marketing
Most businesses don’t relate customer feedback to their marketing budget, but they should. We all know how much more expensive it is to acquire new customers as opposed to the cost of keeping current ones. If your customers aren’t entirely happy with your product and don’t think you are listening to their concerns, you may lose them.
Even beyond that, the cheapest and most effective way to reach new customers is through referrals. Referrals come through satisfied customers. Satisfied customers get what they need from your product; it addresses their pain points. When happy customers have a concern or idea, they know they will be listened to. Adding more to the bottom line, current customers who are satisfied and highly engaged spend more money.
All Feedback is Good Feedback
Positive feedback is always good to hear. It is excellent for morale, and it can show you the areas in which you are successful. This can lead to pouring resources into the areas that best improve the customer experience. Still, negative feedback maybe even more powerful, especially when it is actionable. It represents your best possible areas of improvement. The service recovery paradox demonstrates that there is an even deeper force at work in negative feedback. Customers who have a negative experience with your offering and are able to get their problem involved are more likely to become even more engaged customers in the future. There is no limit to the power of feedback if you manage it well.
Customer Feedback Management
Customer feedback management (CFM) orcustomer feedback product management is the process of integrating feedback into the product development lifecycle. The process takes data from multiple channels or sources, organizes it, prioritizes it, and develops actionable items that can improve your product. Too often, customer feedback is seen as something that just needs to be dealt with. Some organizations respond to feedback as a method of damage control. They never take the opportunity to respond in a way that can create a better product or experience. Thus, they also miss out on a golden opportunity to create loyal customers and brand ambassadors by giving users a sense of ownership of the product.
Customer feedback management becomes especially critical in the development and lifecycle of complex products and services. Development teams need to stay connected with end-users to comprehend their experiences. For some, this type of input can be hard to hear. If you ask the right questions, you will get an honest picture of your customers’ appreciation and what causes them pain. Areas of frustration and annoyance for users are the exact points where changes and improvements can improve customer experience and create a better product.
Where and How Do You Collect Customer Feedback?
There are numerous approaches to collecting customer feedback, and the best method will depend on the type of business. Still, no matter your business, no matter your location in the cyber or physical world, no matter your product or service, the secret to managing customer feedback is making it as easy as possible for your customers. The importance of reducing friction for submitting feedback cannot be overstated. Leaving feedback should never be difficult. When offering feedback is difficult, time-consuming, or confusing, you will receive input from only the most inspired customers. These tend to be the most satisfied customers and the most unsatisfied customers. While this is valuable data, it is not nearly as comprehensive as what you would get from a more extensive selection of customers, some with less intense points of view. Simply put, the more feedback you can collect, the more complete the picture.
Often and Easy
Since managing customer feedback starts with the collection, and more data is better than less information, the best strategy for collecting customer feedback is “easy and often.” Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to ask for feedback. They range from low-tech options like paper forms and comment cards to modern approaches like email and web surveys.
Customer Feedback Collection Approaches
One size does not fit all when to comes to customer feedback. It makes sense to use as many approaches as possible and then focus efforts on those that bear the most fruit. It is also crucial to ensure that you are following the best practices available to get the most out of the channels that you use. There are so many potential benefits to different approaches. They can, of course, be great ways to hear real input from customers. Even doing this right can lead to a higher level of customer engagement and even offer to connect with new prospects interested in what you have to offer.
One of the easiest ways to get customer feedback is simply to ask. One of the simplest ways to ask is to send emails to your customers. Just keep in mind that email correspondence can become very unstructured, and it can become challenging to manage and analyze responses. To get a better handle on email feedback, consider integrating it with some of the other options below.
Surveys, if done well, can be one of the most efficient ways to collect large amounts of feedback. Take some time to set goals for your survey and develop questions from there. This will keep the survey from being overwhelming to your customers and ensure that you get the data you are looking for.
NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a helpful way to get another perspective on customer feedback by measuring how likely your customers are to recommend your business to a friend or colleague. While this is useful information, the real gold in an NPS survey isn’t the raw data but rather the comments some participants leave at the end of the questionnaire. This type of feedback adds context that can bring deeper meaning to the scores.
Customer Development Calls
Although this is the most time-consuming and labor-intensive method of collecting feedback, there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions with the people who use your product. The increasing comfort level with video conferencing tools like Zoom makes this a much more practical approach. It saves travel time for everyone involved and allows for a more significant number of interactions.
The nice thing about social media in terms of collecting customer feedback is that it does most of the work for you. No matter what you do, there is a good chance that people are talking about your product or service on Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms. Using social media monitoring tools can allow you to easily listen in on these conversations and glean feedback. To take it a step further, you can easily engage with people on social media by posting surveys, offering conversation starters, and messaging customers directly.
Product Review Platforms
Whether you are paying attention or not, people may be leaving feedback about your offerings every day on sites like Capterra and G2. This is the whole purpose of sites like these. All it takes is the willingness to read through and document the feedback that is already there.
Another place people may already be talking about your business is community forums. On platforms like Reddit and Quora, like-minded people have created communities about anything and everything you can imagine. Search for communities related to your product, topics related to the service you provide, or even those discussing your competitors.
Customer Service Team Members
Don’t miss out on one of the best customer feedback sources available, your own team members. Whether you have a dedicated customer service team or have team members who share this work, their direct interaction with users of your product is invaluable. People calling into or emailing customer service are usually facing a problem or challenge. Collecting this information by polling or interviewing these frontline workers is a highly effective way to understand your users’ experiences.
Keep It Structured and Actionable
How you structure your feedback intake will significantly impact how you can use it to improve your business, product, or service. While you can still gain insights from unstructured data, the higher the level of structure, the easier it is to process. The easier the data is to process, the easier it is to prioritize. The easier it is to prioritize your information, the faster you can execute the changes you need to keep your customers happy.
How Do You Actually Use Customer Feedback?
Remember, managing customer feedback is about more than collecting and cataloging. There is no value unless it is put into action. The question becomes, how can this feedback be used to improve sales, customer service, and loyalty? At first, this is still a matter of managing the data. The value you can receive from this information will be determined by how the feedback is read, shared, and linked to something you and your team can actually work on and achieve.
The Customer Feedback Loop
It is vital to see customer feedback, not as a linear process but as a continuous loop that cycles as long as the product is in the marketplace. This loop may seem organic, but it is critical to create and adopt a clear collection strategy. Failing to do so may lead to a waste of effort with data collected that will never impact your product or service nor lead to improved customer engagement or satisfaction. There are five stages of the customer feedback loop, with each feeding into the next.
Frequently asking for and reducing the friction of providing feedback is the critical first phase of the loop. As mentioned earlier, structure is essential here. The clearer the structure during the ask and response, the easier this data will be to organize and use.
Not all customer feedback is the same. This is obvious and easy to handle when you are talking about a small number of consumer inputs. However, at scale, these need to be organized and categorized. This most significant move is simply separating feedback that drives product value from the rest. From there, data can be sorted by product features or other dimensions of development.
This is where the most critical information is gleaned from the feedback. Without this phase, the collected data is meaningless. What are your customers saying? What are their common pain points? What features are being requested by the most respondents. This is where you can see a clearer picture of what is working and what is not working, and what presents the most significant opportunity for growth and improvement.
All feedback is important, but not all of it carries the same weight. Rather simply, the more important the customer, the more critical the feedback. Data may need to be segmented by customer size, generated revenue, or even specific market vertical.
At some point, you need a way to select from the information gleaned in analysis what is the most critical work. There needs to be a way to identify what work to do first, what to do later, and what not to do at all.
Closing the Loop
To get the most of the feedback process, you need to follow up with your customers when possible. Thanking people for submitting feedback is excellent. However, if it is your goal to make customers happy, build loyalty, and develop referrals, don’t stop there. Customers need to know that their feedback is being heard. It prepares them to begin the loop with you again by being willing to offer their feedback the next time you solicit it. Show customers that you are following through and responding to their feedback. Allowing a customer to see their input leading to product fixes or improvements gives them a particular stakeholder role in the product.
Clarifying the Why
So far, this has been a broad overview of the meaning and purpose behind customer feedback management. However, before going much further, you will need to clarify your own “why?” While the fundamental reasons for collecting, processing, and acting on feedback are the same for every type of organization, you will need to set your own objectives before you begin to ask questions of your customers.
It is possible to collect too much information, which is precisely what happens when objectives are not clarified. You probably aren’t ready to hear every last thing your customers think about every aspect of your product. It is easy to go way overboard and try to find out every last opinion your customers have about you. However, if you are not ready to act on all the information, the essential things may get lost in a crash or arbitrary data.
Consider first what you need to know. What is important now? Do you need to know mostly about product features, a particular aspect of your offering, or maybe the overall customer experience? While you don’t want to limit the number of channels customers can use to offer feedback, you will likely find it helpful to limit the number of things you ask about. In short, don’t overdo it.
Using the Right Tools
At some point, you are going to need the right to manage your customer feedback. It is tempting to start with tools that you already know or have access to. Just remember that if you are serious about this process, you will need to be ready to scale. You can manually input customer feedback data into a spreadsheet and share it with your team using project management tools like Asana or Trello. That will probably work fine when you are dealing with dozens of pieces of customer feedback. However, the more you solicit feedback, the more you use it to improve your offerings, and the more you follow up with customers, the more feedback you will receive. When you find yourself analyzing thousands of feedback pieces, you will need a more robust platform. Switching systems midstream is never ideal, so it is best to start with a system that can grow with you.
Using a Customer Feedback & Product Management Platform
If you are ready to take customer feedback management seriously, you need the right tool. Ideally, this tool doesn’t just handle one aspect of customer feedback but the entire customer feedback loop. That is precisely what a customer feedback product management tool like Prodcamp can do for you and your business.
To understand how a customer feedback management solution can improve your feedback processes, let’s take another look at the customer feedback loop. Whereas manual processes and other project management tools may assist in certain phases of the cycle, a good customer feedback platform functions in all of them and can tie them all together. Through integrations like this, you can maximize the improvements in customer satisfaction through the feedback process.
As mentioned before, to get the very best results, you want to use every channel and opportunity possible to gather feedback. With Prodcamp, the collection process is part of the customer feedback management solution. It can help you collect insights from customer interviews, in-person meetings, emails, customer voting, in-app widgets, and even through a public roadmap. Even better, this data from multiple channels is centralized and can all be managed in one place.
To begin analyzing data, it needs to all be in one place. Without the right customer feedback app, you will find it nearly impossible to centralize this data to make it easy to process. With Prodcamp, the feedback moves seamlessly and is instantly available for analysis across the team.
Again, with all the data in one place, prioritization is easier than ever. With Prodcamp’s prioritization matrix, priorities are displayed in a visual field, taking the guesswork and debate out of what is most important.
Closing the Loop
If you are using this entire process to build customer relationships, failing to close the loop with your customers will short circuit your efforts. With a customer feedback management solution like Prodcamp, this piece is built in. You can automatically notify your customers about updates, new releases, and other events in the feedback lifecycle. You can even do this from right inside your app.
Putting it All Together
One thing is clear: You just can’t ignore customer feedback. Doing so can easily harm your relationship with customers and eventually drive your business into the ground. Even more importantly, ignoring customer feedback causes you to miss out on some of the most valuable information you can find about how to improve your product or service. Feedback, this thing that is too often ignored, can be leveraged into an ongoing process of simultaneously enhancing your product and engaging your customers. Some of the best ideas for improvement come from customers, and customers like to be involved in improving the product or at least want to be heard.
Still, just collecting feedback is only one step. The power comes from what you do with it. It needs to be organized, categorized, and prioritized, or it will just add to the growing sea of useless data stored in spreadsheets and databases. It needs to be turned into actionable steps that can be seen, understood, and undertaken by the team.
Even feedback that is transformed into product improvement is still missing out on its full potential if not for one final step. Customers need to know how their input is being turned into product improvement. They want to know they are heard, and they want to know their effort to share ideas with you is worth it. This is where the feedback loop really springs into action, creating a continuous product improvement and customer satisfaction process.
The Public Roadmap
Sharing your product roadmap with your customers has the possibility of integrating customer feedback into the very fabric of your ongoing development process. The public product roadmap is an extremely efficient way to collect customer input. More than merely reducing friction in feedback collection, this encourages customers to share their feedback as part of the continuing work on the product. Instead of just receiving data and following up on results, users are part of the overall process of product improvement. Using a public roadmap as a part of a customer feedback management solution brings data to life, offering more quantitative and qualitative feedback for the development team and allowing customers to witness and participate in the dynamic product development process.
With a dynamic product roadmap integrated with your feedback management solution, you collect comments and feature requests directly from customers, prospects, and team members. From there, you can collect upvotes to see how customers prioritize possible changes. Interested users can keep up with the whole process and see where changes stand if they have been moved to the backlog or are already complete and released.
Making a public roadmap an integrated part of your customer feedback product management requires a robust customer feedback management solution. Doing this manually without a specialized tool makes this type of integration impossible.
Optimally, the roadmap can be driven by a tool like Prodcamp, which can collect multi-channel data, centralize the data, process it, and prioritize it based on your criteria. You can see this in action by looking at Prodcamp’s own public roadmap.
How To Begin
It is theoretically possible to design and create your own customer feedback management solution. However, very few product managers or product leaders have the necessary bandwidth to consider such a project. While there will always be part of the process that will be uniquely yours, fortunately, there are ready-made solutions that can jumpstart the process, and you figure out how to manage customer feedback.
You and your team will still need to understand your objectives for the process - your distinct expected and desired outcomes. Going into this with no measurable objectives will likely drown you in data and leave you no better off than before. It will take some time to understand what is important and what is important right now.
Once you have a clear picture of your goals, Prodcamp can do the heavy lifting. There is no need for separate applications or services since Prodcamp handles the entire feedback cycle. This includes collecting, analyzing, prioritizing, and closing the loop.
You can capture feedback from almost anywhere using the Google Chrome extension. Or, use the embeddable JS widget to capture customer feedback from inside your application.
Prodcamp even integrates with the other tools you already use, making it a seamless part of your office workflow. If your team uses Slack to manage projects, Prodcamp will synchronize with it to keep your team up to date on the latest work informed by the prioritized customer feedback. It also integrates with Jira and Salesforce. As you can see for yourself on the public product roadmap, even more integrations are on the way.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of customer feedback. It has the potential to improve your product or service, create more highly engaged customers, and draw more prospects to your offering. Collecting this feedback as often as possible and through as many channels as possible is the first step. Still, finding a way to manage this feedback and turn it into actionable steps is what really gives it power. Finding the right tool to manage this process can make all the difference in making the most of the customer feedback loop.
Originally published at https://www.prodcamp.com.