Customer feedback loops suffer from a lack of commitment. Most teams believe that a response to their customer marks the end of a closed-loop feedback system.
Departments that could help improve the business end up swimming in an ocean of valuable feedback that isn’t acted upon.
That’s because so many departments are involved in the feedback process: Support receive it, marketers ask for it, and product managers solicit it, but few departments are held accountable for making use of feedback.
For a product-driven business there’s much more you can be doing with that feedback!
Let’s go back to the start and reiterate your feedback process so you can improve both user and customer experiences.
How to create a customer feedback loop that improves your product
For a customer feedback project to begin, get a team’s attention, and close the loop across the business, these are the three areas you must focus on:
- Assign (or claim) accountability and choose the metrics to track
- Close the loop with the customer
- Filter out valuable feedback and sell it in a way to get acted upon
1. Assign accountability for a customer feedback loop
What does accountability mean?
Accountability means you’re measured on and responsible for results. For example, sales teams are accountable for their leads. If they don’t close a lead, they won’t receive the commission. Even more important, if they aren’t closing deals, they may not keep their job.
Teams that are accountable are committed to improvements, because it’s their responsibility.
Why do you need accountability?
Having someone be accountable means that tasks actually get done. That’s normally because their neck is on the line.
Without accountability, you tend to run into the bystander effect: a perceived diffusion of responsibility. This effect was originally discovered in 1964 after the murder of Kitty Genovese – despite many witnesses seeing the girl being attacked, no-one stepped forward to help or even sound an alarm.
There’s two reasons for this effect.
- People tend to follow the crowd. If they don’t see anyone else stepping forward, they don’t think it’s necessary.
- There’s a diffusion of responsibility. Instead of one person feeling the full weight of responsibility to save a life, the responsibility is split between one hundred witnesses, and no one is compelled enough to act.
If the bystander effect can have this effect on witnessing a murder, imagine what it does to a Voice of the Customer program!
Everyone can see the feedback coming in, but no one does anything about it. We all just continue on with our workload, thinking someone else is probably dealing with that.
You need accountability for a successful customer feedback loop
By making one person or team accountable, you reduce the diffusion of responsibility.
This can be tough – it’s not always fair to be held solely responsible for a failure.
For example, when I worked at Payfirma, the customer support team was put in charge of reducing churn. I remember protesting strongly: sales are selling to the wrong people, the product has missing features, marketing isn’t giving us customer success content!
Sunan Spriggs, the Chief Customer Officer, calmly replied, “Exactly. And those are the things you’re responsible for fixing.”
It was tough going, but it forced us to make connections across the various departments to create change. Even if it wasn’t “fair” it was effective. We were committed to reducing churn, so we did.
The projects that teams or individuals are committed and accountable for get their attention.
How do you make a team accountable for customer feedback?
Choose the right survey and analyze the right metrics.
If you aren’t measuring the effectiveness of a feedback loop, you will have zero chance of improving it. By setting benchmarks and goals, it’s easy to measure progress.
Marketing should look at using NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys and be sending those out at regular intervals (e.g. 60 days after product purchase, not including a free trial period). They can use this feedback to find product improvements or positive feedback can be used as testimonials.
But the support department has access to customer satisfaction and customer effort scores, as well as a whole help desk full of metrics available to them.
A few great metrics we’ve seen tracked to measure feedback loop in customer service:
- Amount of time spent on customer requests per developer sprint (10% is a good average to aim for)
- % of feedback requests that get incorporated into the product
- % satisfaction of feedback request cases (tag cases with “feedback” to track)
- # of customers who give praise after feedback is implemented
- $ of renewals saved by features incorporated
- % of customers adopting a new feature (to complete the feedback loop, you need to have customers aware and using the new feature!)
Of course the way you track this is up to you. Pick what makes sense for your business.
Who owns your customer feedback loop?
It doesn’t really matter if it’s Marketing, Product, or Customer Support, but it needs to be someone specific.
In product-driven companies, the product management team usually takes on this responsibility. This means building feedback success metrics into performance reviews and dashboards for their team.
But this doesn’t mean that the customer support team is off the hook when it comes to feedback! When they have complementary metrics, you get a cumulative effect of two teams working in harmony towards improvement. For example, support teams could be measured on the satisfaction of cases dealing with feedback. Perhaps they could be given a quota of setting up five customer interviews per month with Product.
2. Close the loop on customer feedback
Now you’ve decided on which team is responsible and how and when feedback is being collected. You need to handle how you’re going to respond to customers.
When reviewing customer feedback you’ll typically come across two types of responses:
- A satisfied customer who’s happy with your product
- An unsatisfied customer who’s not happy with your product
With satisfied customers, at Kayako, we use a Slack channel to share product feedback (or directly with the appropriate team to share praise). If it’s really exceptional, we reach out and ask for testimonials.
But if you have a few unsatisfied customers in there, you want to follow up with them as soon as you can. There’s no excuse for not doing this. Huge businesses like Charles Schwab and Apple try to contact every negative responder within 24 hours.
With the customer surveys we send out, if we get a poor response we dig into their reply. If there’s something relatively specific or actionable that we feel we can help with, we usually follow up via email and try to a) find out more information so we can learn from it or b) solve it.
Is there some customer feedback that really stands out? One comment that you feel is worth taking note of and passing this onto your product or development team?
3. Close the feedback loop with your team: Sell feedback in a way it will get acted upon
Have you ever had a really great feature request from a customer go ignored for months? It might be because you’re just not selling it right.
Product managers are constantly juggling priorities between new features, product changes and bug fixes. They hear requests from sales, executives, marketing, and support. For every suggestion that is incorporated into the product, there’s five more that aren’t.
As Janna Bastow, co-founder of ProdPad says, “If we just built what customers asked for with no further consideration, we’d end up with just a pile of features… which doesn’t make for a compelling, useful product.”
How do you make your customer’s important requests stand out from the noise? We break it down in The Ultimate Guide to Communicating Product Feedback.
Step 1: Make it business savvy
Businesses have to make money to keep the lights on. While making customers happy is arguably one of the best ways to do that, profit is still the end goal.
Break down the revenue associated with customers who have complained and you’ll be able to put a value on implementing it.
Go a step further and calculate how much time and money you spend responding to inquiries about this feature. Time really adds up.
If you can justify a high ROI of a change, it would be difficult for a product manager to say no.
In The Ultimate Guide to Communicating Product Feedback, we show you an easy way to generate use case statements. Download it now.
Step 2: Humanize it
Support teams should act as a filter between customers and the Product team. This means passing valuable feedback from customers directly to Product Managers.
The biggest benefit of passing feedback through from frontline teams is that it’s straight from the horse’s mouth. There’s no room for misinterpretation.
You can also connect vocal customers with interesting stories and suggestions to Product Managers for further discussion.
Step 3: Don’t forget the bigger picture
Providing context around feedback can make it more impactful. Show how it aligns with company goals. Demonstrate the way it affects team and department goals. Everything that helps move the business forward is a win.
“It’s important to understand the goals of the department. If customer support folks are aware what Product is focused on, their feedback will always be timely and extremely informative.”
Jeff Vincent, Head of Product at Wistia.
Without even having to ask, the Support team can feed the Product team all of the relevant data they need.
Review with frequent team check-ins
For a closed-loop feedback process to work to it’s best ability you need to host regular check-ins with the teams you collaborate with.
Gather the feedback stakeholders in a formalized process to share the results. Talk about what’s working and what isn’t working. It’s important to socialize successes because it creates a stronger sense of unity.
By tracking progress consistently, it’s easier to iterate quickly and make noticeable improvements. When you look back a few months down the line, you’ll be amazed at how much effectively your feedback loop operates.
Customer feedback doesn’t need to be overwhelming
There’s more to a customer feedback loop than running surveys and responding to customers. Feedback used effectively can improve your product.
Businesses that swim in an ocean of incoming customer feedback can take advantage of it. If each team knows what they’re accountable for and what to do next to help other departments, customer feedback can be used to improve product experiences of the people that matter most, your customers.
Our 29 page e-book dives deeper into these topics and more. Featuring a three page easy to use template, we’ll walk you through:
- Calculating the return on investment of a feature
- Creating use-case statements
- Pulling in the bigger picture
- Getting those must have features into your product!
Editors note: This post was originally published in July, 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.