Collecting, managing, and leveraging customer feedback is an essential skill in today’s fast-based business world. Not only does customer input provide critical insights into improving your product or service, but it also goes a long way in maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty. I recently spoke with Intuit QuickBase program manager, Adam Kowal, for some advice on how to best collect customer feedback.
Understand what you’re trying to achieve
For many project managers, soliciting feedback is simply announcing a beta test or similar campaign, sending out a survey link and a deadline of two weeks for responses, and listening to the sounds of silence. You will be much more effective at collecting meaningful feedback if you first define why you want and need it. What do you want to improve, what are you hoping to learn, and what will you do with the data once you have it? How will you know when you have enough? These questions provide the foundation for a “learning plan” that will guide your execution.
Pick the method that makes the most sense
There is value in a quantitative result, especially if you need to know if something is statistically significant. However, for most customer feedback you will need a qualitative portion – or a part of the survey where users can answer open-ended questions. An online survey is effective for some quantitative and qualitative questions, but in many cases you are better off getting feedback via active, one-on-one engagement with the customer. When you do this, set boundaries around the conversation but be careful not to lead him or her. Researchers may unconsciously get participants to tell them what they want to hear versus what they need to hear.
Observe what they do rather than what they say
Customers unconsciously omit things in a feedback form. A classic example is the study that assessed how frequently people wash their hands after using the restroom. When asked via a survey, 90 percent of participants said they washed their hands after going to the bathroom. But when actual restroom behavior was observed, a far lower percentage of hand-washers was revealed. If you really want to get in-depth information on how the customer is using your products or services, set up testing and watch what they do. Ask them questions about the actions they are taking and the motivations behind those actions.
Create an infrastructure
Be proactive in putting time and resources into an efficient process or system that allows you to collect feedback from a group of customers over time (you can even try a QuickBase application for free that helps you collect customer feedback). In a “test and go” scenario, you can quickly ping your group if the CEO has a question or you need to report status on a particular item. It also makes it easy to constantly re-assess your product’s success and learn if the same issues are cropping up over and over.
Don’t practice six degrees of separation
When it comes time for analysis, be careful about handing off your feedback (especially your open-ended, qualitative findings) to a third-party that wasn’t involved with the development of the learning plan and isn’t intimately connected to the product. Like good archeologists, only those who are properly trained can see clues in the customer’s remarks. Third-parties might miss valuable findings simply because they don’t know what they’re looking for.
Keep it personal
Customers are more likely to respond to your feedback requests if you contact (and respond to) them directly, indicate that you care what they have to say, and then listen carefully. Even after you’ve gotten what you wanted, close the loop with each individual. These people are helping you improve your product or service and they deserve to hear how you plan on using their feedback. Reward them for their participation with incentives like monetary compensation, free product, or early access. Creating strong feedback relationships will ensure you have a devoted and enthusiastic pool of testers in the future.