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Customer Feedback: How to Collect and What to Do With It

May 02, 2022
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Customer Service
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15 min read
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Customer feedback has become one of the primary drivers of long-term growth. Present-day organizations jump at every opportunity to talk to the customer or learn about them. Businesses spend millions of dollars on setting up feedback channels — emails, reviews, feedback surveys, website analytics.

And all for good reason. This research by Harvard Business Review concludes that customers who were asked for feedback were more profitable and less likely to churn than those who weren’t. 

While directly asking for feedback proves to be impactful, customers don’t always tell you the entire truth.

Most users will just talk about what they think was important, but other significant things may have impacted them that they wouldn’t bring up. Hence the customer feedback you collect won’t be completely accurate – a huge problem in itself.

The only way to really know what excites your buyers and what makes them despise your product is to implement customer analytics systems to read and track their behavior.

Before we take a deep dive into this, let’s understand what customer feedback is, and why it is so crucial. 

Table of Contents

What is Customer Feedback?

Customer feedback is information provided by customers about their experience with a product or service. Collecting customer feedback can help product, customer success, customer support, and marketing teams understand where there is room for improvement. Feedback can be collected proactively by polling and surveying customers, interviewing them, asking for reviews, or implementing the right tools that collect implicit feedback.

The pertinent question now is: how do you utilize these channels to actually learn from the feedback? Before you establish the viability of a channel, it is crucial to develop a clear picture of WHY you are collecting feedback.

Why should you gather customer feedback?

Simply put, you cannot succeed without listening to your customers. How do you know if what you are doing is right or wrong? How do you know the way your customers are reacting? Customer feedback is the guiding light for your company. 

It not just helps improve your product, but impacts every part of your business. Be it marketing, sales, or customer service, customer feedback helps you understand what your customers truly like and dislike. Being close to your customers will set you on a growth trajectory that you haven’t experienced before.

But remember, there is no one-size-fits-all tactic to gain information from your users. Different situations require different methods of collecting customer feedback. For example, a survey form sent to an already disgruntled user will only make matters worse; a phone call works better here.

Now, let’s find out what are the best methods of collecting customer feedback:

The best ways to collect customer feedback

There are hundreds of survey tools to collect feedback from customers. Here, we’ll talk about the most popular and effective ways to ask customers for feedback.

1. Long form-based surveys

Customer feedback surveys are the most common way of completing the feedback loop. It usually includes sending a set of questions through email.

The one thing you have to always keep in mind while sending email surveys is to not get carried away and ask too many questions. Once you learn how to create a survey, collecting feedback will get easier every time.

Survey Monkey states that the connection between the number of questions and the time spent answering each question is not linear. The more questions your customer survey has, the less time your respondents spend, on average, answering each.

In other words, the more questions you ask your respondents, the more likely they will “speed” through it, and the quality and reliability of your data will suffer:

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Average time spent per question decreases as the number of questions increase

It is clear from the above table that the longer the survey, the less time will the respondents spend on each question. The takeaway is to make the survey as short as possible.

There is, however, no ‘ideal’ length for a survey. A few experts do say that anything between 5 and 10 questions is a decent number.

To keep your surveys short, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is: only ask questions that fulfill your end goal. Ensure that every question serves a clear purpose. If you do not intend to use the information, do not ask that question. The aim is to collect customer feedback and not to have them write an essay.

For example: If you are surveying a customer who has just exited your paid plan, there is no point asking them if the onboarding was easy! Your only aim should be to understand why they are leaving and what can you do to prevent that.

It is also important to start with open-ended questions. Let your customers surprise you. Multiple choice questions will give you answers based on your own assumptions – you may think the customer is leaving because of your pricing, but they may be leaving because of a missing feature. If you really want to know what the customer is thinking, give them an open-ended question.

A great open-ended question is: ‘What do you love the most about the product?’. 

It is also a great hook to have your respondents start the survey on a positive note.

When to use form-based surveys to collect customer feedback

The best place to use this is when we want detailed inputs and have some open-ended questions to ask. This should only be sent to an engaged user, who you’re sure would like to take the time to provide feedback to you. For instance, if you build online courses as part of your business, form-based surveys are a great method to get feedback from your students as they’re already closely involved with your material.

2. Short in-app surveys

Customers are constantly thinking of ways your product can work better for them. Maybe parts of your app do not have what they are looking for, or maybe the design could look a little better, or maybe they found something that is broken.

More often than not, they will not reach out to you at your support address. That happens only when the problem is big.

A great idea is to offer a survey while your customer is using your app. The survey can be prompted the moment a user has finished interacting with a particular feature in the app. Since the user is already in the process of using that feature, it is very likely that their feedback will be very precise and to the point, and not ambiguous.

Remember: Your users are in the app for a certain purpose, it is not a great idea to throw a long survey at them. Keep it to two to three questions that are relevant to the page that it’s being displayed on.

Intercom is a fantastic tool to trigger in-app surveys in your app. For example, the moment a user finishes using a particular feature, a quick question like the one below is a great way to get their ideas about improving it.

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Intercom’s in-app survey

When to use In-app surveys to collect customer feedback

When you want quick feedback from someone who has performed a certain action. Timing is of the essence here – you have to trigger the survey at the very moment a transaction ends.

The questions should be specific to what the user is using or has just used, and NOT about the product in general.

3. Customer Satisfaction Score Surveys

A customer satisfaction score indicates how satisfied a customer is with a product, service, or their interaction with a company. 

There’s a pretty simple formula to calculate the CSAT score:

CSAT score = [Number of satisfied customer ratings – Number of Not Satisfied ratings] %

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CSAT score question

The greatest advantage of using satisfaction surveys is that it is very easy to implement and doesn’t require much effort from respondents. You can also capture valuable feedback by sending surveys to collect net promoter scores and customer effort scores.

Recommended reading: Know more about customer satisfaction surveys in Hiver

When to use CSAT to collect customer feedback

It is useful to periodically measure the level of satisfaction with your customers as they move ahead in their journey. For example, you can send out a CSAT survey after onboarding and training them, after a product or feature has been launched, or after a customer support query has been resolved.

A good customer service solution like Hiver will allow you to add a CSAT survey at the end of every support interaction.

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Ask customer satisfaction survey with every support interaction in Hiver

4. Website feedback widgets

Your website is one of your most important resources as a business. You can think of it as your digital real estate. 

If it’s unclear to your customers, or worse, if it has bugs, you want your clients to be able to send you feedback and report issues easily. 

By using a tool like Marker.io, your customers can capture what they see, add visual annotations, and send that feedback in a couple of clicks.

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Website feedback widget by Marker.io

Based on this feedback, your team can improve the website. 

For example:

  • Your development team can resolve bugs
  • Your designers can improve the user experience 
  • Your marketing team can optimize the content

When to use website widgets to collect customer feedback

When you want to collect feedback on a website, having a widget embedded on your site is the most effective way to go about it.

There’s no need for your customers and users to switch back and forth between channels if they need to report a bug or send a suggestion idea.

5. Customer Interviews

It’s said that if you truly want to understand someone, you will have to talk to them.

The surveys and tests will give you tons of data but they can never tell you what a person truly feels about your product. This is why getting on a call with your users becomes an integral part of your customer feedback strategy. It is a personalized and proactive method that generates the best responses.

Hearing a person’s voice and tone is the best way to sense what they actually feel about your product.

A call will help you tell the features that get users excited, features that really make their lives easier.

The key here is that the person calling the user should genuinely want to understand their problem and offer solutions. Do not do it because you have to do it. Do it because you care. This is not a sales call.

The second factor to keep in mind is the time when you call. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to respond between 8 am and 9 am, and between 4 pm and 5 pm. Lunchtime, between 1 pm and 2 pm is the absolute worst time to reach out to anyone.

When to use customer interviews to collect customer feedback

It makes sense to get on calls only with your power users, who have deep knowledge about the area you operate in and can give you actionable feedback.

This is not a good avenue when you want to reach out to a lot of people at the same time.

6. Transactional emails

Transactional emails are the ones that you receive right after signing up for a new service, upgrading to a new plan, and so on. Basically, these are emails triggered by a certain interaction between the user and your app.

More often than not, transactional emails are treated as necessary notice and companies would not put much effort into creating a dialogue with the customer. These emails often lack the aesthetic appeal of the website and the newsletters and deliver an inconsistent customer experience – that’s a shame.

Contrary to this popular practice, transactional emails can be used as a powerful weapon to foster a dialogue with customers. If we look at email open rates, these emails do better than all other emails, says an Experian report. The reason is that people actually want to receive these emails – for instance, they want to know if an upgrade went through or not. Asking the right feedback question in these emails will certainly get good responses.

Viking does a great job at it by asking users to rate their delivery right after they have delivered a product:

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Viking collects customer feedback right after they’ve delivered a product

In situations when you do not have a question to ask, it’s a good idea to give your users a very easy way of getting in touch with you. Buffer does it neatly:

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Interestingly, the peak-end rule states that ‘our memory of past experience does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode’.

Say a user receives a transactional email just after they’ve upgraded – asking a question at that juncture would evoke positive feelings about the product and set them on the path to customer loyalty.

When to use transactional emails to collect customer feedback

When a user does something significant: signs up, upgrades to or exits a plan, and so on. You can send them a quick one-liner question or a short multiple-choice question. The key is to gain insights about their product usability at the right time without burdening them with too many questions.

7. Suggestion boards

Suggestion boards take collecting feedback a notch up: it allows users to collaborate on ideas with not just the company, but also with other users.

These boards allow users to create feedback posts that can be upvoted or commented on by other users. Top posts that have been upvoted or highly commented on can help you discover what the majority of your users need.

The best thing about suggestion boards is that ideas that had been suggested by some customers became popular ideas among others who hadn’t thought of the benefits those ideas could bring.

Aha.io is a wonderful tool for creating these boards.

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Aha’s customer suggestion board for collecting customer feedback

It is important to make the board very easy to navigate. Users should be able to add new posts with ease. Creating categories, allowing your customers to view the most popular ideas, and making them searchable is key.

Results will take some time to develop. Feedback will not be accumulated immediately. Wait till your users leave enough feedback so that you can determine which ones are popular to your entire base as a whole.

When to use suggestion boards to collect customer feedback

When you are looking for new ideas or feature requests from your users. You should start with inviting the extensive users first – they know your product well and will be in a better position to suggest improvements, new products and new features.

After you have a few ideas on the board, you can start inviting more users – they can upvote or comment on others’ ideas even if they do not have one.

Once you’ve collected the feedback you want to pay attention to, the next step is to analyze the data and take actual steps to make things better for all stakeholders.

How to gather implicit feedback with customer analytics

There are quite a few critical aspects related to your product and brand that can be uncovered without having to ask your customers any questions. This is where customer analytics come in. Analytics provide you with useful insights about your website, product, and customer journey that can help you improve the customer experience at every touchpoint.

1. Use website analytics to understand user behavior

Seeking explicit customer feedback might help to a certain extent, but the problem is that most visitors will not remember what appealed to them the most before they went ahead and purchased the product.

Customer and website analytics has the power to unlock these answers for you. Monitor how customers behave on your website: which areas do they view the most, which links do they click the most, where do they drop off, and more.

This analysis will tell you:

  1. Which areas of your website are interesting and convert the most: By using Hotjar’s heatmaps and screen recordings you can identify the elements users click the most.
  2. Which areas of your website are of high friction: It’s very unlikely that users would write to you on the live chat or the customer feedback popup about why they dropped off from your website. Customer feedback tools like Crazyegg’s scroll maps tell you the exact amount users spend on each section of your website, at what depth do they drop off, and more. 
  3. How your customers behave at every stage of their journey: All businesses have a series of steps/events the users need to go through before they purchase. For example, a user visits the site, signs up for a free trial, and finally pays to subscribe to the product. Mixpanel’s funnel report gives you a bird’s eye view of all the stages – how each stage performs at converting visitors into customers.
  4. Which elements do customers engage with the most before purchasing your product: There are many marketing elements on a webpage that lead to conversion. Kissmetrics Path Report helps you identify these powerful elements that users click on before converting so that you can optimize them.

2. Understand your power users and potential churners

Who are your power users? They might be the ones who are using all of your features, the ones who spend the most time with your product, or the long-term repeat customers. 

While it’s easy to identify power users, it becomes difficult to know your potential churners. Most angry customers would just leave – without even raising their concerns. Make a list of actions that display a lack of interest and map them against your customer base.

Use this data to determine how you engage with different segments of your customer base.

Kissmetrics’ People Search does a neat job here. This customer analytics tool allows you to find visitors who have undertaken an action you specify.

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Kissmetrics’ People Search

3. Understand which customer segment needs the most attention

For most businesses, users can be classified into a few typical segments, such as new visitors, active trial users, trial conversions, first-time buyers, repeat customers, etc.

The first thing you would want to know is whether a segment is growing or shrinking.

You can never have the same customer feedback parameters for all of your segments. You’d want to understand where they are in the growth cycle.

It is important to track the user behavior of all of these segments to understand what works for each.

Kissmetrics’ Populations is a great customer analytics tool to monitor the health of your segments.

You can define segments, and specify the conditions you’d like them to meet. For example, your first segment can be ‘active trials’ which will contain users who’ve signed up for a trial in the last 30 days.

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Kissmetrics’ population dashboard

Populations’ overview screen gives you a list of your segments, the size of each, and the change over 90 days (you can change this to any number you want).

It also gives you a graphical trend of the total number of users in a segment.

You will be able to see which segments are growing or shrinking and adjust your focus accordingly.

You can further drill down to reveal more information about every segment: which city are they from, which page did they first land on, and more.

Now that you know the best ways to gather customer feedback, let’s look into how you can use this data effectively to enrich your customer experience and improve your product.

What to do with the data you have collected?

1. Identify product improvement areas

More often than not, your loyal customers would have developed an expertise in your product features; some of our users understand the product as much as our product managers do.

The standup product improvement meetings can only take you so far – the real insight comes from the ones who use your product regularly. This is the product feedback you need to take note of!

No matter how hard you try to empathize with them and put yourself in their shoes, your users will always have some exciting ideas that you did not think of.

So, stop brainstorming and start following the advice your customers give you. Not only will your customers appreciate your willingness to listen and implement their ideas, but you will set yourself apart from your competitors, as a business that genuinely cares.

LEGO Ideas is quite possibly one of the best examples of how customer insight can be used for product development.  Enthusiasts can easily submit their own designs on this mini-site. The projects gathering more than 10,000 votes from the community undergo LEGO review and are turned into new sets if the review is favorable.

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Lego’s product development process

2. Feed customer feedback into your product roadmap

If companies are able to incorporate customer feedback into the product roadmap successfully, they have certainly come very close to the ideal market fit.

It is crucial to classify feedback into improvements and game-changers. Let’s take a couple of examples from Hiver itself.

  • A few of our customers thought shared labels can have different colors as that would help them manage their inboxes better. Now, this is a product improvement – we added it to our ‘task manager’ and had implemented it in almost no time!
  • After we built the shared inbox, a few customers suggested we implement automation that will allow emails to be assigned based on a few preset conditions. Now, this is a game-changer as it would significantly reduce the time people spend on task assignments. We added it to our ‘brainstorming session’ and discussed the pros and cons of doing it. It took us a few weeks to build it, but it’s been worth it.

The biggest challenge is to get your customers to suggest. Would they really bother to spend time suggesting a feature?

Fitbit implemented the suggestion boards and noticed that even the ones who did not have a suggestion were either upvoting and downvoting. Ideas suggested by other customers became popular among others who hadn’t thought of the benefits those ideas could bring.

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How Fitbit implemented suggestion boards and improved their product

3. Optimize your conversion path

Your website is a goldmine of data. Make sure you utilize this user behavior data to make informed decisions that reduce bounce rates, increase conversion rates and identify leakages in your marketing funnel. 

  • Lower your bounce rates: With the scroll maps data, identify the high-friction elements of your website that lead to maximum bounce off. Find answers to questions like “Where should you place your calls to action?”, “At what depth do most users drop off?”, “What are the distracting elements that lead to drop-off?”, and more. Optimize these areas on your website to lower your bounce rate and improve conversion rates.
  • Prevent leakages in your funnel: For businesses, it is very important to prevent leakages as people move from one stage of the buyer’s journey to another. This does not only apply to signups and purchases, funnels can be put anywhere on your website to know how visitors move through a certain flow. By setting this up, you can understand where you are losing your customers. It then becomes possible to test different iterations of your product and compare the drop-offs between versions.

Analyzing this data will also help you decide what to communicate to customers at every stage in their journey. 

You will also have data on how visitors from various sources behave inside the funnel. Once you know what are the highest converting sources, you can put more effort into getting more traffic from those sources.

4. Discover potential advocates and nurture them

Customer satisfaction is the primary indicator of how happy they are with your product. Gathering feedback will help you quickly identify the happiest of your users.

The next step is to nurture them into advocates. Get them sufficiently excited to rave about your product and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Monetary rewards do not motivate advocates. Do simple things – thank you notes are a great idea.

HEX is one cool company that attributes a lot of its success to the handwritten notes they send to their customers.

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HEX’s hand-written notes

Here are some great ideas to turn your customers into advocates.

Imagine a world where most of your new customers came from business referrals. This can be achieved only when you know who your advocates are.

5. Improve your marketing and sales efforts

The information you gain by running customer tests will give you an accurate picture of what your customers really like about your product. The data can be mined specific to individual users/buyers and defined segments.

Analyzing the data, you will be able to pick out product features and marketing elements that they engage with the most, the areas on your website where they spend the most time, and more.

  • You can customize your email marketing campaigns based on the behavior displayed by a certain segment of customers.
  • You can design special offers and discounts around the features that the customers seem to like the most.
  • You can send a free coupon to everybody tied to a particular event. For example, you can send a free usage coupon to users who signed up but did not upgrade.
  • You can adjust your advertisements to target certain profiles of people with specific advertisements. Additionally, the ads can be displayed to match the customer location data.
  • You can customize your drip emails based on how the users in different segments interact with your product. For example, if you notice that videos are the best trigger to get people to convert, it is a good idea to send a few videos to users who have just signed up, in the first email to them.
  • The data can also be taken to one-on-one sales conversations. How a person engages with your product will give you enough clues about what they like about your product. This knowledge can be used by sales agents to personalize their conversations.

What links do they click the most, what elements on the website do they interact with the most, how much time do they spend on a page/action – all of this is enough to infer the user’s interests and intents and create a targeted marketing and sales program for them.

6. Prevent customer churn

Are you stuck with the principle that negative feedback should be swept under the rug and kept silent? It is a clear indication that you have set your customer success goal to a low ‘simply meeting customer expectations’. It is crucial to use feedback to improve customer service.

A customer who has taken the effort to call you is a lot more likely to tell their friend about the same problem – ignoring the negative feedback will have a compounding effect.

Negative feedback is an opportunity to prevent customer churn and foster a long-term relationship with the customer. Unhappy customers need a little extra work: call them, understand their pain points and ensure you do your best to make them happy. Ensure that you check on them regularly – make them feel ‘cared’. Showing that you care goes a long way in building a healthy business relationship and ensuring customer retention.

By keeping the two-way conversation open and building trust gradually, you can turn these problem customers into raging evangelists.

Remember: Your customers have taken the time out to give you feedback when they could have just switched to another product. Any feedback is a display of interest in your product. Be wise and use feedback to improve customer service.

7. Find your niche

Most companies are not a hundred percent sure about the verticals they should focus on. It is never an exact science and companies end up spending huge amounts on trial and experimentation.

Customer feedback can be a good way to find out where you belong.

During the process of analyzing feedback from customers from a broad spectrum of verticals, you will begin to see patterns as to where the majority of your happy customers come from.

Once you have discovered the verticals where the majority of your happy customers exist, start working on strengthening the relations you already have with them. Strive to make them your advocates and seek recommendations.

8. Provide amazing customer service

When you know how a customer has behaved on your website, you have a lot of data to make informed decisions about how to deal with them and deliver exceptional customer service. You will be in a better position to understand the problem they’re facing.

Given that you have a fair idea about how they have behaved on the website or with the product, you will be able to anticipate their future needs as well. The links that they have clicked on, the videos they have watched, and the blogs they have read will tell you what appeals to them. You can then talk about those features and make an instant connection with the user.

Wrapping up

A startling truth about most companies: your support team always understands more about what the customer needs than your product team.

It is time you start discussing your product roadmap with the support team as well – they are the ones who know about the ‘actual’ problems your customers face.

Building a good product and marketing engine well is only half the job done. A lasting commitment to evangelizing a customer-centric culture, followed by a fierce commitment to gathering, analyzing, and sharing the feedback across the company and implementing it plays a vital role in propelling your product and the business forward.

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Hiver HQ
Harsh is the content lead at Hiver. He's jocular, loves dogs, and is always up for a road trip. He also reads - when Netflix gets boring.
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