How to Track Customer Feedback: Your Guide to Designing a Killer System That Works
Some feedback collection systems are better than others. Here’s how to design one that works. Photo by Jon Tyson from Unsplash
Customer feedback is essential for building a great product, driving sales, and maximizing retention.
But you already knew that.
Your problem is getting that feedback—efficiently—and then using it to obtain valuable insights that can inform your product.
A poor customer feedback tracking process can frustrate your team, lead to poor decision making, and waste your development budget on the wrong features.
And, it turns out that most companies have poor customer feedback tracking systems. We know that because we’ve actually spoken to hundreds of product managers, customer success and support professionals, and founders. We’ve talked to people from companies like Slack, Drift, Zapier, and GoDaddy.
Here’s what we learned from those conversations: it’s rare for companies to have a solid, well-designed system that synthesizes feedback into compelling insights. It’s much more common that these systems are kludged together with Google Sheets or Trello. They’re a headache for everyone involved—as painful to use for those collecting the data as they are for those using that data.
And if most companies don’t have a good system for tracking customer feedback, most companies also aren’t effectively using customer feedback to inform development.
We’d like to help with that.
In this article, we’ll show you how to track customer feedback painlessly. We’ll provide a set of steps you can use to create a sustainable system for collecting, interpreting, and using customer feedback; a system that is painless to use, ensures nothing gets lost, and enables valuable product insights.
In part I, we’ll identify the most common pain points teams have with their customer feedback system.
In part II, we’ll detail a step-by-step process that you can use to build a sustainable feedback collection system that works.
In part III, we’ll provide you with actionable steps for processing and using your feedback data to improve your product and sales outcomes.
Part I: Pain Points (or, how not to track customer feedback)
From the hundreds of conversations we’ve had with experts in the customer feedback community, we’ve been able to identify the top factors that make a feedback system ineffective.
Look for these in your own system to help you evaluate it, identify the factors that could be holding you back, and understand what you need to improve.
Not capturing feedback from all customer-facing teams
It’s essential that all customer-facing teams are connected to your feedback tracking system. Not only does this allow you to capture everything important, but it also allows you to look at feedback from different angles.
For example, your sales team will give you feedback about how product features affect purchase decisions. That’s different than what you get from your support team, which is more likely to tell you about the challenges your existing customers have using the product.
Well-designed systems will include all customer-facing teams in your firm and ensure each of these teams sees the value of participating.
Using tools that don’t integrate or cause disruption
When your sales rep learns why a prospect didn’t bite, that’s critical information. But if there is friction in the customer feedback system, they may not always record it.
The same goes for all your other teams: customer feedback systems break down when there are barriers to using them.
Well-designed systems integrate with your existing tools and are dead-easy to use.
Not digging for the underlying problem
The feedback customers provide isn’t always relevant or useful—at least initially. They may describe something at the surface, when really the issue has deeper roots.
You need to be able to understand the whole problem a customer has, not just the solutions that they think they want.
Well-designed systems provide opportunities for feedback clarification or further probing so you can get to the real, useful insights.
Not structuring the feedback so you can explore it
Not all feedback is created equal. An inefficient system will throw feedback from different customers together, making it difficult to discern who needs what.
You want to be able to uncover what your most valuable customers are after; for example, what your customers on a paid plan need vs. those on a free plan, or what your churned customers would have liked.
Understanding which customers need certain features is essential for driving the insights to grow your product. That means you need to be able to segment your feedback by relevant customer metadata.
Well-designed systems allow you to segment feedback by key attributes like plan or monthly recurring revenue.
Part II: How to track customer feedback effectively: your step-by-step guide
If you recognize some of those characteristics of poor customer feedback processes in your own process, you might need to make some adjustments. You might even need to rebuild from scratch.
Here’s exactly how you can build a system to track customer feedback effectively.
A good system to track customer feedback captures all useful feedback, segments it, and uses simple tools. Here’s how to build a system that does that. Photo by Celpax from Unsplash.
Step 1: Figure out where your feedback is coming from
First, make a list of all the places where customer feedback is currently gathered. That includes the team or individuals who receive the feedback and the tools that they use.
For example, you might be collecting feedback from your support team through Intercom. Or, you could be getting it from your sales team through call notes on Salesforce. It could even come from Slack conversations.
In your list, also think about the kind of feedback you’re getting. Lots of it will likely be qualitative, but also consider any relevant quantitative feedback like NPS scores or survey results.
Action: Make your list of feedback sources, the teams that collect it, and the tools they use. Be thorough.
Step 2: Consider when you want to collect feedback
The life cycle of your customer probably has several key inflection points at which feedback could be useful.
For example, you might be interested in the main problem your customer was trying to solve when they subscribed to your product. And you likely want to hear why your customers cancel their subscription.
Think about what other inflection points are important to you: when customers signed up for a trial, why prospects decided to become paying customers, why they churn, and so on. These are key moments when you should ask for user feedback.
Action: Make a list of the key points in the customer journey that matter to you.
Step 3: Consider what feedback matters to you and who said it
An effective feedback system will collect information that you can actually use to inform your product decisions.
You’ll want to make sure you’re proactively soliciting feedback that matters to you, as well as keeping track of unsolicited feedback.
You’ll also want to make sure you collect all the relevant metadata on the feedback: who said it, when, what plan they’re on, how much they’re paying per month, and any other important information. This will allow you to slice and dice the feedback data when you’re analyzing it.
A purpose built tool, like Savio, can do this for you easily, but you can also do it manually with other tools.
Action: Make a list of what feedback you need to collect, including relevant meta-data.
Step 4: Choose a centralized spot to collect feedback
Now you want to choose one tool in which you collect and manage your feedback data. It needs to work with the tools your teams are already using.
There are several options that you could fit into your workflow. Examples:
You can even get your development team to build an in-house option.
Another option is a purpose-built customer feedback tracking tools, like Savio. Savio integrates easily with many of the other tools you may already be using, like Zapier, Typeform, Intercom, Help Scout, and Slack. It even has a Chrome extension that allows your teams to save customer feedback without leaving the tools they’re already using.
Although a dedicated feedback collection tool can make your system easier, you can build a system that works with tools that aren’t purpose-built.
The critical point is that you bring your feedback into a single, centralized place and that it can integrate with the other tools your teams are using.
Action: Choose your collection tool and make sure it will seamlessly integrate into each team’s workflow.
Step 5: Document how each team will collect feedback
Now, design your process together with your key internal stakeholders. You’re aiming to connect the dots from the previous four steps.
You know who is collecting feedback, and what tools it’s coming from
You know when you’re collecting feedback and the kinds of feedback you’re collecting
You know what feedback you’re collecting, and you’re including relevant metadata
You’ve specified where you’re going to collect all that feedback from
Now you just need to design your process from end to end, writing down how they're going to collect feedback, who's going to do it, and how they'll put it (and the metadata) into the tool you chose.
Team: Customer Success
Who: All Customer Success Managers
How: Copy and paste feedback into “Customer Feedback Spreadsheet”
What to capture: verbatim feedback, customer name and email, plan type, MRR, date
Try to automate as much of it as possible so things don’t fall through the cracks.
Once you’ve designed your process, go through this quick checklist. Make sure your system:
Connects to all customer-facing teams
Is easy to use for all your teams
Allows for clarification and deeper investigation with customers
Adequately segments feedback by customer attributes that matter to you
At this point, you may also want to get feedback from others who will be using it. Make any changes as appropriate. Getting feedback and making amendments will maximize buy-in from your various teams.
When you’re finished making sure it’s good to go, document it. Post it somewhere that’s easy to find.
Action: Design the process other teams will use to centralize customer feedback and document it. Automate as much as possible. Assign roles as appropriate.
Step 6: Share the process and make sure everyone understands it
Once you’ve designed and documented your feedback collection process, you need to share it internally and make sure everyone knows how to participate in it.
That means explaining your system and showing everyone how to use it. It also means highlighting each person’s role in the system and also why this system matters to them.
Emphasize that a good feedback system is useful to all teams: it will help the sales team close more deals, it could help reduce support calls, and so on. The more invested these teams are, the better the system will work.
Action: Ensure all relevant internal teams are on board with your process. Continue to revise it as necessary.
Part III: How to use your customer feedback
Now you’re cooking with gas: you’ve built a sustainable feedback process that collects the right data from the right teams. It puts the data in one place. It’s dead-easy for your internal teams to use. And you’ve automated as much of it as possible.
Your focus now should be on using that data to make solid product decisions. You want to operationalize it.
This is how.
Use the insights from your customer feedback data to prioritize features, write specifications, bring your team together, and build relationships with your clients. Photo by UX Indonesia from Unsplash.
1. Determine a triage process to clean the data and get useful insights
The first step is to triage the data. This is where you’ll categorize the feedback and figure out what is telling you.
That means answering the following questions:
Do we understand the root problem? If no, get clarification.
Can we imagine acting on this someday? If yes, assign it to a feature request.
This process should provide you with a set of the features requested by your customers as well as the number of customers that have requested each feature.
Goal: to ensure that feedback is consistently categorized so that you can create a robust database.
2. Schedule internal stakeholder meetings to review trends
You’ll probably want to schedule a regular meeting to review recent trends in the categorized feedback with the relevant teams. This is where you’ll prioritize.
Determine your feature request priorities in a meeting with your internal stakeholders. Use your customer feedback data to guide you.
Yes. We know that lots of meetings aren’t actually useful, but there are two good reasons to go through your feedback in a meeting.
Your team mates might have additional insights
The primary reason is that your customer-facing teams may have useful insights that help contextualize the data you’ve collected or clarify trends.
For example, after looking at your data, you might decide that building some new feature is a priority. But your customer support team might help you understand that what people really need is to fix a bug.
A regular meeting with your front-line teams can help you more deeply understand your feedback data and sharpen insights.
It’s a way to demonstrate value to your teams
You are asking your other teams (support, sales, etc) to do a bunch of work to collect this data for you. They’re only going to put in that effort if they can see the data is being used.
Feedback meetings demonstrate to everyone that you’re actually using the data to develop a better product. This is positive reinforcement, and it helps your team feel motivated to continue to participate—even if it’s more work for them.
Goal: to contextualize your data, get the right insights about what your customers want, and clarify their priorities.
3. Use the feedback to determine what you are going to build
Determining your building priorities is a mix of art and science. It’s a complicated process. Your customer feedback should be a factor in that decision, although it shouldn’t be the only factor.
For more detailed advice on choosing priorities, check out our guide on how to prioritize feature requests.
At its core, deciding between Feature A vs. Feature B, means picking some principles to guide how you'll invest your developer budget.
One way is to divide your development time into feature “buckets”
One way to structure your build decisions is to commit to spend some percentage of your development effort days on each of:
customer requests, and
For example, you might choose to prioritize them all equally, assigning 33% of your development to each “bucket”.
Or, like Superhuman, you may choose to invest 50% of your dev time on strategic requests, 50% on customer requests, and 0% on tech debt.
Another way is to pick a business goal and to build features that support it
Your company might decide that this quarter you’re going to focus on reducing churn. The product team could then prioritize feature requests obtained from churned customer feedback.
Or, maybe you’re trying to increase upgrades to the “Enterprise” product plan. The product team may choose to develop some feature that makes that product more appealing to the customers on your lower subscription levels.
Whatever your process you use, ensure that you’re allowing your build decisions to be informed—at least in part—by customer feedback so that you end up with a product your customers actually want.
Goal: to use your insights to guide business and product decisions.
4. Use the feedback to determine feature requirements
But don’t stop there.
You’re going to need to write a set of requirements for the features you build. Your feedback can help you here as well. Make sure you read what your customers want carefully. Use their feedback as the backbone of the feature specs.
What if you feel like you don’t have enough information?
Then get more. Use this as an opportunity to reach out to the customers or prospects that have provided feedback for more information about what they need. You might even ask them to walk through your mockups or to beta test features.
Goal: to use the feedback and the people that provided it as a resource for building a better product.
5. Use the feedback to be the best informed person in the room about your customer needs
Your customer feedback data can also be used as a political tool.
If you’re a product manager, you’ll probably be used to receiving requests from various stakeholders—sometimes even the C-suite—for features that you know won’t provide much value. You might also be familiar with pushback from the development team about whether a feature they’re building will actually be useful.
Increasingly, we’re also seeing these requests coming from customer success teams. There is increasingly a shift in customer success teams owning more of the product roadmap—and this will likely continue.
In all your interactions with your internal stakeholders, feedback data is your friend:
Use it not just to find out what your customers want, but also to advocate for those features over the pet projects of others.
Use it to let your success team know that you’re building a product that will increase retention.
Use it to let support know that you’re tackling the biggest customer issues first.
Use it to let your sales reps know that you’re building a product that will help them drive conversions.
Use it to assure your development team that people _really do _want the features they’re building.
If you arm yourself with facts about what customers want, you not only put yourself in a position where you can make a better product, but you’ll also look competent to your peers, and even help unite them on a common vision.
Goal: to advocate for, justify, and rally people behind a singular product vision that your customers actually want.
6. Close the loop with customers to build relationships and improve sales.
This is the last, and perhaps most underrated, use of your customer feedback data: as a sales tool.
Closing the loop means following up with your customers when you build a feature they asked for.
Ideally, this is a personal, 1-on-1 type of communication that emphasizes you’re listening to them. It’s a powerful way to show that you care: you’ve listened to what they need, you prioritized their needs, you changed your product, and you even remember that it was something they asked for.
It also shows respect. If they went to the effort of providing you with feedback, you can go to the effort of following up with them.
Closing the loop with your customers is a powerful way to build relationships. Here’s how you can do it:
If people asked for something, tell them when you built it. You’ll strengthen your relationship with your customer and build commitment to your product.
If a prospect mentioned they were looking for a particular feature, follow-up and show them that you built it. It may help you close the deal.
If a current account is at risk, show them that you’ve taken their needs seriously. You may encourage them to stick with you.
Closing the loop is a relatively simple way to deepen relationships with your customers, increase retention, and even recover lost customers.
Goal: to strengthen your relationship with your customers by closing the loop.
Close the loop. Use your feedback to strengthen your relationship with your customers. Photo by Adam Jang from Unsplash.
Your customer feedback system can help you build a product that delights customers, reduces churn, and drives upsells—but only if it works
The secret to tracking customer feedback is making it a company-wide priority and then designing a good system for it.
What is a good system? One that:
Is collaborative and includes all relevant internal teams.
Is painless and easy to use.
Captures useful data and segments it appropriately.
Uses that data to build a great product, bring teams together, and improve relationships with your customers.
Building this system isn’t easy and may take some time, but the results will be worth it.Last Updated: 2020-12-11
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.