March 8, 2021

6 Ways to Collect & Apply User Feedback to Improve Your Product

Lisa Mo Wagner

6 Ways to Collect & Apply User Feedback to Improve Your Product

If you are a SaaS company you often market your product directly to your customers, the ones who pay you. Usually, they do not hold back when it comes to feedback and feature requests. And while this can be a source of great inspiration you also want to understand the end-users.

In this blog post, we outline 6 ways to collect customer feedback, how to bake it into a strategy and apply it to improve your product’s user experience while still making it work for your customers.

What is the difference between customer and user feedback?

In SaaS, customers are the people that pay you, and users are the people that interact with your product. Each will give you different kinds of feedback.

You want to make sure you do not position yourself in a ‘build trap’ where your customers dictate features and you just implement whatever they ask for. You also want to understand end-user behavior and feedback to improve your product. 

If users love it and can use it with ease, your customers will love it, too. Your job is to build a product that users love and yet still works for your customers. 

6 ways to collect user feedback

Make an active effort to collect user feedback so you stay in touch with the community and keep user satisfaction high.

Not all of these techniques are applicable to all products and you will need to work with your customers for some of them.

1. Analytics

Image of Hotjar Heatmap
Hotjar Heatmaps | Source: hotjar.com

The most straightforward way to collect data about your users’ behavior is tracking within your product.

You want to collect user behavior data minus personal data. Your customers usually do not want you to just contact their customers and collecting personal data is rather complicated under GDPR for example. 

There are lots of tools available to track and show user behavior in an application, like Amplitude, Pendo, Mixpanel, Heap, Hotjar, or Google Analytics. 

You need to ensure you’re closely aligned with your customers. Support them to add necessary information to their privacy policy.

2. Social media monitoring

image of social media monitoring tool
Social Media Monitoring tool | Source: mentionlytics.com

Social Media monitoring can be a powerful tool even though it gets an extra layer of complexity for SaaS products and might not be fruitful in some cases.

What are the things you want to listen to?

  • Brand mentions - with or without direct tagging, aka @mention
  • Relevant hashtags
  • Mentions of your competitors
  • General trends that apply to your industry

For the first two, you need that above-mentioned extra layer of complexity as your users interact with your customers not you directly. You might be able to come up with some keywords to find the relevant experience they’ve had when they used your product to e.g. chat with your customer’s service team.

The latter two will give you competitive insights, that still help you to improve your product.

When you first start out you can do this manually by checking different social media platforms. This is a great way to test out if this is helpful in your situation. If it yields useful feedback, then I recommend starting to use tools that automate this, like Hootsuite, Talkwalker, Keyhole or Google Alerts.

3. Surveys

User Surveys
User Surveys

This one is highly dependent on your product and your customer, and overall, it is unlikely that you will just ask for an NPS score within your customer’s product. 

On-Page 

Your customer might be using tools like Hotjar, or Pendo to collect information about service or product issues. Work with them to understand if there’s a way for you to also benefit from them collecting feedback. Can they forward user feedback that relates to your product?

Email

Work with your customer to send out an email with a survey to all their customers that have interacted with your product. For example, after a chat, you could ask about the experience. Beware that you need to ask specific questions as the chat and the service experience will be one to the actual user.

Social Media

Did you know you can share Facebook audiences with other ad accounts? This can be a great way to target your customer’s users that have done a certain action with a Facebook ad and ask them for their feedback.

This will work better if your customer has a large user base.

4. Usability tests

7 Steps to Usability Testing
7 Steps to Usability Testing | Source: productplan.com

Sit down with your test person and give them a task to complete using your product. Use the “think aloud” interview style: Ask them to tell you what they are thinking, what they like or even love, what’s confusing or annoying. If they go silent, just nudge them a little, “What are you thinking? Why did you hesitate?”.

Follow these three rules for any interview situation:

  • Keep an open mind. Ask open-ended questions, no yes or no answers or leading questions to confirm something you want to hear. 
  • Listen actively. Listen to understand, ask questions to get into details. Let your questions trail off “you mentioned this thing earlier, what about…”, and endure silence, your interviewee will fill it.
  • Beware of bias. You have likely built the product and love your solution, to you it makes sense, do not project this onto your interviewee. Remove some social bias by not over-enthusiastically agreeing or disagreeing, stay neutral.

You want to interview 5 people, according to the researchers at Nielsen Group, this is enough to see the big patterns. 

Ideally, you want to test usability before you invest time and effort into building a new feature.

5. Prototypes

GIF of Prototyping Workflow in Figma
Prototyping Workflow in Figma | Source: figma.com

While the aforementioned methods collect feedback from a product that is already out there the next two are collecting feedback before you even launch a new feature. 

My favorite way to get feedback at this stage of a feature is through prototypes. They are great to validate ideas and determine usability.

You can build a low-fidelity prototype using tools like Balsamiq, and get help from a designer to build high-fidelity prototypes with Invision, Marvel, or Figma.

Once you got your prototype ready the user test is just like the usability test. Voltage Control has a great user test outline available for download.

6. Exploratory interviews

Image of Two people sitting for an Exploratory Interview
Two people sitting for an Exploratory Interview | Source: Mcguiredesign.com

In exploratory interviews, we try to generally understand our users’ points of view. The jobs they are trying to get done, their pains and their gains from it.

Different from the above-mentioned interview types, this method is designed to let us explore and find new opportunities to help users.

Especially in SaaS, there are different people we can talk to for this kind of information, we have secondary and primary sources, indirect and direct information. 

Indirect

You can speak to your customer’s customer success and sales teams, they are the ones that interact with the users regularly and they often have great insights into their struggles. 

Usually, they are champions for your users and happy to share, they represent an extra layer between you and your user. Be mindful of their role and their opinions that might come with it.

If your customer has user researchers or a UX team, they are great people to talk to as well. They literally do the same kind of research you’re doing. If you have the opportunity to work with them, I highly recommend you do.

They can add questions you have to their research and share their findings with you in general.

Direct 

If you have the chance to talk to the users directly, depending on your product, those are your customers’ employees and/or their customers.

Talking to employees might be a little easier. Work with your customer’s user researchers, or designers and conduct interviews together. Plus. this is a great opportunity to learn from one another when it comes to methods and techniques.

Don’t forget to follow the interview rules mentioned above no matter who you talk to.

How to apply the collected feedback

Great, you have collected a bunch of feedback, now what? It can be a bit daunting to go from collecting to actually applying feedback, here’s a simple framework to create your feedback strategy.

As a SaaS company, you need to build a product that users love and still works for your customers. Make sure your feedback strategy is closely connected to your product strategy.

1. Collect

Step one, collect feedback. Above I have outlined several ways to learn more about your users. There’s no one-size-fits-all here, find the techniques that work for you, experiment. Make sure you employ a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods.

And remember, it’s more important to get started than to use the perfect tool.

2. Categorize

Once you have collected your feedback you need to understand it, the easiest first step is to find categories or buckets you can put the pieces of feedback into.

Is it about the product, like bugs or feature requests? Is it about the service, yours or your customer’s? Is it about marketing & sales, yours or your customers?

This is a great opportunity to share feedback with your customer as well if there’s anything you have found out on your own that might help them.

3. Prioritize

Next, you need to prioritize which feedback to act on. How many users does an issue apply to? Can solving a specific problem give you a competitive advantage? Are there feature requests from your customers that match user struggles?

At this point, there are still a lot of assumptions and known-unknowns around the feedback that might become an initiative. I find it helpful to create hypotheses based on the feedback and describe an outcome I want to achieve by addressing it.

Then I prioritize the hypotheses based on how many users they will reach, how big the assumed impact is compared to other initiatives, and how confident we are in those estimations.

4. Apply

Start with the hypotheses that you think will have the biggest impact on the biggest amount of users. Try to confirm your assumptions and create an experiment around them. 

Experiments are great ways to apply feedback and test out if your hypothesis was correct before fully committing to large-scale implementation.

You can create a (new) prototype, or create a Wizard of Oz style experiment in which it looks like a real feature for the user but work behind the scenes is manual. 

5. Learn

Lastly, learn and iterate. There is a reason people talk about the feedback loop, you want to apply your feedback to improve and continuously collect more of it to be able to build the best product out there, that users love and yet work for your customers.

Conclusion

Choose a method of collecting feedback that is available to you depending on your product and that can give you the results you seek to learn. Have a good mix of qualitative and quantitative measures.

Take your collected feedback, prioritize it and then apply it to improve your product for your users, and through that for your paying customers as well.

You might also enjoy our roundup of the best blogs for product managers. Subscribe to our newsletter today for more helpful content for product managers, delivered straight to your inbox.

About the Author

Lisa is a product person with a strong focus on inclusive and empowering product management. Her 8 years of experience range from early-stage startups to corporates in Europe and Canada across industries like retail, ad-tech, e-commerce, and fin-tech.

She loves to write on everything Product Management related and has her own blog. Lisa is also an active member and Ambassador for the WomenTech Global Network.

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